Sunday, September 23, 2018

Purple Sweet Potatoes

Looking back on my posts from last year and they are all about purple sweet potatoes.  We didn't grow any this year and I'm really sad about that.  I just ordered two pounds on Amazon and the price came to $20.87.  Our favorite baked item from last year's crop was purple sweet potato scones.  Fortunately I learned to make them with about 2oz of paste for an entire receipe so I was able to really stretch those sweet potatoes.  Looking forward to these in about two weeks! 

Next year - it's about the purple! 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Garden 2018

In the spring, we knew we'd be moving in 6 months or less and that our summer would be extra busy with the move so we scaled back on the garden to less tomato plants, a few bell pepper bushes, one jalapeno bush and butternut squash.  I think there might be some garlic and potatoes in there somewhere, I guess we'll see when it gets turned in a few weeks.  

My butternut squash was moved to a new location because it's had some mixed history.  In our first year of gardening at mom's house, we planted butternut and acorn squash.  It was a bumper crop on both and we loaded the freezer for a year.  The following year they mixed and produced a disappointing white pumpkin so the next year we skipped all squash.  Our compost bed seems to be a hot bed for repopulating squash because I toss out all the seeds into the compost and I guess it doesn't get hot enough to kill them.  So this year, we started a new bed that had not been cross contaminated with any other squash.  From 2-3 starter seeds, I ended with 10-12 butternuts in various sizes.

Butternut Squash can last up to 6 months in 55 degrees but I don't have a way to keep food at this temperature.  Maybe one day I'll have an extra fridge that I can keep at this temp, that would be awesome because then I wouldn't have to process all my squash by Thanksgiving.

After picking the butternuts at the beginning of September, I give them about two weeks to cure.  This simply means letting them rest in an indoor temperature of around 77 degrees to let excess moisture work its way out, if not completely ripened then I'll set them in the sun until green goes away or under a heat lamp if I'm worried about bugs.  I get super anxious about bugs getting my squash so sometimes have to pick them early to prevent loss.  After curing, I move them to the basement which is around 70 degrees and keep them there for up to 13 weeks.  I don't like going past Thanksgiving because my basement has too much moisture, even with a dehumidifier, and they tend to not last well after that point.

I have 4 basic recipes that I use all my squash on:
* Butternut Squash Casserole - uses 2lbs
* Butternut Squash Pie - 1lb
* Butternut Squash Bread or Muffins - 1 cup
* Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese - 1lb

I bake the squash for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then put the squash (not including skin) into a food processor until smooth.  For casserole and Mac N Cheese, I simply weigh it and put into containers that freeze well.  For pie, bread and muffins, I drain the squash overnight in a strainer to get excess liquid out.  For baked items it's best to work with a more solid squash.  I used to strain all my squash but it takes up so much room in the fridge when baking 2 giant squash at one time!  This helps divide it up better over the fridge/freezer space.

I really should have named this post "Butternut Squash Strategy". 

This is definately a favorite squash and when we don't grow it, I find myself hitting up local farmers quite a bit and it can feel expensive buying 10-12 squash at $3-4 per squash and in grocery stores it's always by the pound.  This year I grew mine from seeds and it's quite satisfing to save  $40 - 50!  

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

We've moved to a new house

When we moved to Maryland 5 years ago, we set our stuff down in my mom's house, which had remained empty for several years after she remarried and joined her husband in his home.  We lived there with the understanding that when he passed away, she would move back.  That time came in April of this year.  It wasn't completely unexpected, he had been in poor health for several years, but he'd always bounced back.  Regardless of our knowledge of his health issues, it still came as a complete shock, that time was here, it was time to move.

A few years ago we had bought a fixer upper in town but we've been unable to get contractors to do the work that needed to be done.  My husband started a new job last year and was unable to do the work he wanted to do, so this needed to be sold.

We spent several weeks after the funeral looking for a new home and the prices began to get out of reach.  120's were snapped up before we could stop and catch our breath.  130's were gone just as fast.  We got into the 150's before getting a call from a friend.

A friend I grew up with was anointed Pastor in the spring of the very church my grandmother attended in a small town in PA, several hours from Hagerstown.  Upon learning we were moving, he and his wife graciously offered to sell their townhouse for the exact number I had in mind to buy.

The summer flew by, we did our trip to Texas, came home and packed the entire month of August.  Our fabulous Violette enjoyed a few weeks in Montana with her grandparents while the rest of us packed and packed until we ran out of boxes.  Our friends moved out and we moved in right on their heels.

So here we are, with our own house again.  Another mortgage payment, our own furniture, street parking, no curtains yet, off-key singing neighbors, saucy teenagers who step out into traffic and dare you to mow them down - it's so much to take in.

I still go back to mom's house to work as my office is in the basement and it's a place of quiet (except the crickets) and normalcy.  I think that's needed when life has been turned upside down.