Saturday, August 31, 2013

Zucchini Overload - Italian Sausage Soup

We love Sausage Vegetable soup this time of year and it uses a good-sized zucchini every time I make it. 

First I brown a pound of sausage with an chopped onion and some fresh garlic.

Then I add about 3 cups of chopped carrots and celery and cook until they soften.

I made this on vacation so I added an Italian Seasoning packet int he cupboard as well as a 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Seriously, even a  1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes will make any soup more interesting.

 I added about 4 cups of chopped tomatoes from the garden.

I added five cups of water and 5 chicken bullion cubes - again on vacation - and 3 bay leaves that I brought along.

Here is the zucchini that got squashed a bit in our cooler.

I chunked the zucchini into the soup.

So delicious with parmesan cheese atop!  

Yummo -and it feeds all six of us with plenty of leftovers for DH's packed lunches.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Zucchini Overload - Zucchini Blueberry Muffins

I found this recipe on Facebook when a friend posted a rave review of it.  I thought it looked pretty good and I was excited to try it since it called for coconut oil and flax seed, both of which were new ingredients.

Zucchini Blueberry Muffins Vegan

Makes 16 Muffins
  • 3 Tbsp. Ground Flaxseed Meal
  • 1 ¼ Warm Water
  • ¾ Cup Coconut Oil, Melted
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Organic or Raw Sugar
  • 2 Cups Shredded Zucchini
  • 3 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
  • ½ Cup Pecans, Chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and set aside two cupcake/muffin pans with papers or reusable silicon holders inserted into place.
  2. Mix warm water with ground flaxseed in a small bowl and set aside for ten minutes, stirring together occasionally until it is a watery gel-like consistency. Add melted coconut oil, vanilla extract, and sugar to the flaxseed and water. Press most of the moisture out of the shredded zucchini and stir it into the wet mixture.
  3. In a large bowl mix/sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together. Combine wet mixture to this dry mixture and combine evenly, add in a little more water if you think the batter is too thick; fold in blueberries and pecans.
  4. Scoop batter into muffin cups with an ice cream scoop, fill them almost all the way full. Bake for 23-27 minutes, or until tooth pick comes out clean.
For my muffins, we went ahead and made 24 cups.  I put in double blueberries for sweetness so there was a bit more volume.  But they don't puff up much at all so our muffins weren't very full.  They tasted ok.  My almost 3 year old LOVED them and ate one every day for about a week.  My older kids balked. 

Here's what mine looked like:

I won't make these again, but now I know I can grind up fresh flax seed in my coffee grinder.  I think I might try ground flax seed in our next batch of smoothies.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Zucchini Overload - Zucchini "Sauce" for Cooking Oil Substitute

Last year I tried making Zucchini Sauce for a baking substitute for cooking oil. I had used applesauce many times as a healthy alternative to vegetable oil in baking, but my kids love applesauce. I thought zucchini sauce sounded like a good alternative. It worked well as a substitute and was a great use for lots of zucchini! Click here for the original post.

Here's how I made it last fall:
I cored, chunked and cooked zucchini with a little water then mashed it up.

It made 4 cups of zucchini sauce in these 8 half-cup portions
Last year I was really excited about this use of zucchini and made WAY too much.  I must have had 15 cups (at least) and I only used about half of it over the course of the year.  This year I may make  a few cups, but I think I'm more likely to just share the zucchini overload with my neighbors.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zucchini Overload - Stuffed Zucchini

I thought this recipe sounded good when I saw it at allrecipes.  So I made it up with a few adjustments.

First I browned a pound of Italian sausage - sage flavored - with about a tablespoon of fresh garlic.

Then I added a finely chopped onion.  It was on the smallish side so I'd go with half an onion if it was a large one.  I also added 1/2 t. rosemary, 1/2 t. sage, 1/2 t. marjoram. and 1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes.

When the sausage was mostly brown, I put the whole pan in the freezer to cool it down fast.

 While the meat and spices were cooling, I turned on the oven to 350 and trimmed 2 large zucchini to fit into my casserole dish.

I cut the zucchini in half and scraped out the seeds, reserving them.  Then I put the zucchini into the oven to start them cooking while I mixed the stuffing.

The stuffing included the reserved zucchini seeds, the cooled meat mixture, 1 cup bread crumbs, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.  I cooled the meat mixture because I didn't want it be hot and melt the parmesan into clumps.  Cooled, the meat and parmesan blended well.

 Next I took the warming zucchni out of the oven and stuffed the meat mixture into each boat.  Then I covered the boats spaghetti sauce.  I used a 24 oz jar. I almost for the picture!

I baked the stuffed zucchini for 45 minutes covered with foil.  Then I removed the foil, added a cup of mozzarella and baked another 5 minutes.  
It was delicious!  DH had seconds and his only recommendation was to make the zucchini a little thinner next time.  ie. scoop out more zucchini middle.  As it was the zucchini was not mushy, the meat was fully cooked, and I was really pleased with how it turned out!  We gave the kids 1/3  and 1/2 sections and we had one whole boat left over for 2 lunches.

I am so happy we have another way to use zucchini!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Zucchini Overload - Zucchini/Carrot Bread

We love zucchini bread around here!  We make lots of it this time of year and freeze many, many measured portions of shredded zucchini to use year round.

I generally make a recipe that I've somehow become well-known for at church.  But it was just an all recipes find years ago.

I was talking with my friend, Jodi, about how to make it healthier because my recipes uses over 2 cups of sugar.  I've tried some whole wheat flour, but it makes the bread more dense and less moist.  I also have substituted zucchini sauce instead of vegetable oil with good success.

Jodi's kids love her Carrot Zucchini Bread and she feels good about making it for them because it's a comparatively healthy recipe.

Carrot/Zucchini Bread
 1 1/2 cups white flour 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce (or vegetable oil.  I used zucchini sauce)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar (Jodi only uses 1/2 - 3/4 cup)
1 cup grated zucchini (my small zucchini made 1 1/3 cups)
1 cup grated carrot (my two regular carrots made 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease pan.
Mix together wet ingredients (eggs, applesauce, vanilla).  Mix in dry ingredients.  Stir in zucchini, carrots, raisins, and nuts. 
Pour into pan.
Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes until done.  Cool in pans for 10  minutes before cooling completely on wire rack

I love the green and orange flecks in the bread!

It turned out beautifully and I thought it was pretty good.  But my kids didn't go for it.  Boo.  They are just used to my recipe, I think. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Menu Plan & Goals

I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating that I know these menu planning posts are boring.  But I also know that my life runs so much more smoothly when I know ahead of time what we will be eating for the week.

Monday - lunch out
Tuesday - Nachos
Wednesday - Macaronada
Thursday - Sausage Soup
Friday - PBJ
Saturday - Nachos
Sunday - Pasta

Monday - Spaghetti
Tuesday - Teriyaki Burgers
Wednesday - Beef Stew
Thursday - Sloppy Joes
Friday - Pasta
Saturday - Hamburgers
Sunday - Taco Soup

I did really poorly on the goals last week.  I'm not sure what I was doing, but it wasn't any real work . . . Boo.
Kitchen - Last week I did a good job of processing everything that came in from the garden.  Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Green Beans are all in the freezer.
House - Nope, I didn't get the tv moved - again - or the camping gear put away.  Lame.
Garden - I only tied up the one tomato plant.  There are two teetering, but I didn't manage last week.  I did weed.
Life - I did not order math curriculum and I did not choose a history curriculum

This week my goals will be smaller and immediate: 1. Choose a history curriculum & order it.  2. Order math curriculum.  3. Plan our homeschool year into months and divided September & October into weeks.  Can you tell I have homeschool on the brain?


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekly Shopping - $73.60

Yay for a low-spending week!

I forgot about this purchase last week, so I'm adding it in this week.  It was Saturday morning at Albertsons. I spent $6.62.
Grapes - $0.99/lb
Yoplait 4packs - $0.99 each on clearance

I ran down to QFC Monday morning as I wanted fresh garlic for the skewers I was making that day.  Of course, I found other deals and spent $24.16.
Garlic - $0.79 - way too much
Soy Sauce - $1.99 - I couldn't remember how much I had, but when I got home I had 2 already in my pantry!  Doh!
Brie - $1.09 on clearance
Vinegar - $3.99 - I couldn't find my gallon jug the other day so I bought another
Ham on clearance - $0.79/lb

Safeway was having a great deal on cereal and since I had to run out Tuesday for pull-ups I decided to go to Safeway and get another round.  I spent $7.44.
Cereal - $1.49 each ($2.00/5 MC) = $1.09 each
Chicken Franks - $1.99 on clearance

I went to Fred Meyer Thursday for some veggies and cheese for potlucks over the weekend.  I spent $24.22.

Beans - $0.50 per can
Green Beans - $0.89 big can on clearance
Coffee Creamer - $2.97 ($1.00/2 MC) = $2.47 each
Beef Broth - $0.39
Celery - $0.79/lb
Onions - $0.88/lb
Garlic - 3/$1.00
Bell Pepper - $0.99
Lunch Meat - $3.50 ($2.00/2 MC) = $2.50 each
Colby Jack - $2.99 for 1 pound
Swiss - $2.99 for 12 oz.

Milk delivery was $11.16
No eggs this week

Total spending for week: $73.60
Total spending in 2013: $3,581.10
Average per week in 2013: $105.33

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pineapple Sirloin Skewers

My meal swap was last week.  I made pineapple sirloin skewers which are tasty and people have liked in previous meal swamps.

I started with this recipe at All Recipes.

First I gathered the ingredients.

Then I mixed the marinade . . .times 6!

  • The juice of 4 - 20 oz cans of chunked pineapple.
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup ginger
  • 2 generous T of fresh, minced garlic
  • 1 T fresh ground pepper

I separated the marinade so only one portion would have raw meat soaking in it.
I cut up the sirloin into pieces, counting as I went along.  There were 156 pieces.  Then I popped it in the refrigerator for about 7 hours until it was time to assemble.

I think the reason we soak wooden skewers is so that they won't catch fire on the grill.  I'm not sure this is a necessary step if the skewers will be frozen and thawed, but I still do it just in case.

Ready to Assemble!
There were 4 other ladies swapping so I knew I had to make at least 40 skewers - 10 for each family.  But one of the gals NOT participating had just had a baby so I wanted to make some for her, too.  If I made 40 skewers then each would have 4 pieces of meat.  If I made 50 skewers each would only have 3 pieces of meat.  I decided to meet in the middle.  I loaded the skewers with 3 large pieces or 4 smaller pieces.  When I got through the first 40 skewers I was pleased to see there were enough meat pieces to make an extra meal for the family with the new baby.  It wasn't as much meat as the 4 participating families so I supplemented with cherry tomatoes from my garden and it turned out well!

I divided the reserved no-raw-meat marinade into 5 equal portions and put them into ziploc bags.  This is for basting or using as a topping.

Clean marinade added.
Finally, I wrote the instructions on each container. I like that these skewers can broil in the oven just as easily a they can grill outside on the gas grill.

Ready to Go!
While there was no 'clean' marinade remaining, I still had lots of the original 'soaking' marinade.  I also had another can of pineapple in the pantry and loads of cherry tomatoes.  I decided to make some skewers for our family, too - but I used round steak instead of top sirloin.  =)


Friday, August 23, 2013


One of my bulk buying products is blueberries.  I was very relieved to get blueberries this year because the bulk buying group sold out in the first couple of hours.  Thankfully, I was able to contact the farmer directly and he was able to provide enough berries for me and the 4 other ladies who were hoping for berries.  I had to drive a tiny bit further to get to his farm, but overall I was just thankful to get low spray berries for $2.00 per pound!

When I thought I wouldn't get any blueberries, I picked up 10 pounds at Fred Meyer with the intent of getting more while the sale continued.  But then the bulk buy worked out and I ended up with 40 pounds instead of the 30 I've had the last two summers. 

I froze these in single layers on cookie sheets and in cake pans tucked all over my freezers.  Once frozen, I dumped them into gallon Ziplocs.  There are really a mountain of berries and I can easily see how much more I have this year than last year.

The last pans being emptied - when I finally remembered to take a picture.

The very full bottom of the freezer - 10 bag! 
 I only use recycled bags for blueberries - several from last year's blueberries & peaches as well as the obvious tortilla bag. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Block Party!

Here's another of the myriad of things keeping me busy this summer: We hosted a block party for our neighbors.

It was fun and didn't require major house cleaning as we held it outdoors. We did have to tidy up the garage, though.

Sign my kids wanted to make

Neighbors mingle

DD #2

It was fun!  We met two new families and enjoyed time with the kiddos of neighbors we don't get to see often.  The hardest part was keeping the ice cream cold.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

100 Pounds of Peaches

I bought 100 pounds of peaches last week for only $62.00.  I had to drive about 50 miles round-trip using about 4 gallons of gas.  Several friends wanted peaches, too, and they all agreed to pay an extra $1.00 for each box to help with gas.  I was delighted when enough ladies ordered to just about cover the cost of gas.  Praise the Lord for this blessing!  I had been feeling a little discouraged and unappreciated with the bulk buy coordination earlier in the summer, but He knows just what I needed.  Everyone paid the gas $1.00 without hesitation and every, single person participating in the peach purchase expressed thanks for picking up the peaches or coordinating the group, etc. I was encouraged!

100 poundsof peaches

One full box

Half a box, washed.

Blanching in boiling water

Ice water to loosen the skins. 
 I forgot to make ice so I used ice packs to keep the water cool.  Those eventually thawed so I had to get resourceful.  These sausages and some other one pound rolls of sausage did the trick!
About a half-box with skins off.

Cut up.  I added a few tablespoons of lemon juice.
I had a jar break on my very last batch of peaches.  This isn't unusual, but it's always a little disappointing. I think this time it was because the water was already boiling when I put room temperature jars into the water.  I opened the lid to take a picture (last batch and I hadn't taken a picture yet!) and I saw a lopsided jar.  Ruh-Roh!

Here's the broken jar top I pulled out. 

Here's what it looked like after the batch boiled.   

The other jars all got sticky from the sugar water inside the broken jars so I had to wipe them all down.  I would normally dump the water and start re-heating if I had more batches to make, but luckily this was the last round.  It take a long time for that really big pot to boil!

I fished out the peaches and froze them for smoothies.

34 quarts- done.  This was 3 of the 4 boxes.

Broken Jar.
I have had jars break in a variety of ways.  I was surprised when I pulled the jar top out of the boiling water.  Usually the bottom circle falls out and the rest of the jar is intact.  This time the jar bottom didn't fall out until I tried to get the peaches out of the bottom half of the jar. 

I still have a whole box that I'm planning to freeze and/or enjoy fresh!