Gardens Bliss

Sweet Spicy Zucchini Pickle Relish

Valerie BoeseWhat do you do with your garden surplus? Gardeners know that when you plant a garden – while fresh veggies are delicious – a garden can often produce more than what one can eat on a day-to-day basis. In my case I end up with baskets of veggies all over my kitchen, counters topped with veggies, and my fridge jammed packed with veggies too! Oh my, this is my typical garden dilemma, every summer I end up with more veggies than my family can eat.

So, what can you do you with all of these extra veggies? I usually turn to canning them into some new creation. This year I combined zucchini, cucumbers and peppers to make a delicious Sweet Spicy Relish. The relish turned out really good, not too spicy and just the right amount of sweetness.

Sweet Spicy Zucchini Pickle Relish is a nice addition to potato salad, macaroni salad and tartar sauce. It will add the right amount of zesty flavor to your salad dressing recipes. The recipe yields 28 pints, and, if that is too much, simply half the ingredients to make 14 pints. After all, you do want to make some kind of dent in your veggie surplus, right!

I used my food processor to chop all the vegetables in this recipe, and I used the large blue canner to cook the relish. Your local grocer or hardware store should have all your canning supplies, such as canners, canning salt, jars, lids and rings. Give this recipe a try. Making relish is pretty easy, it only takes a bit of time that will be well worth it this winter, long after your garden is gone.

Sweet Spicy Zucchini Pickle Relish canned and ready for the pantry.

Sweet Spicy Zucchini Pickle Relish canned and ready for the pantry.

Fresh sweet peppers of all colors add beautiful color and flavor to your relish. You can use any combination of sweet green, red, yellow or orange peppers.

Fresh sweet peppers of all colors add beautiful color and flavor to your relish. You can use any combination of sweet green, red, yellow or orange peppers.

Sweet Spicy Zucchini Pickle Relish

Sweet Spicy Zucchini Pickle Relish

Yields 28 pints.

22 cups finely chopped zucchini
22 cups finely chopped cucumbers
8 cups finely chopped onions
16 cups finely chopped sweet peppers (half the peppers were red and orange)
1 cup finely chopped hot peppers (if you would rather not have spicy relish, use an additional cup of sweet peppers)
44 tablespoons canning salt
8 to 10 cups water
Ice cubes
14 cups sugar
14 cups apple cider vinegar
8 tablespoons celery seed
8 tablespoons mustard seed

Finely chop up all vegetables using food processor or manual chopper. Cut zucchini and cucumbers into medium-size chunks before adding to food processor. You want the food processor to chop veggies fine, but not too fine, and cutting larger veggies into chunks will allow the food processor to chop them more evenly.

Cut up zucchini and cucumbers into medium size chunks to prepare for the food processor.

Chopped zucchini was finely chopped by food processor. 

Chopped zucchini was finely chopped by food processor.

Scoop out seeds that may have formed in the large cucumbers before chopping with food processor.

Scoop out seeds that may have formed in the large cucumbers before chopping with food processor.

Chop up cucumbers into medium size chunks before adding to food processor.

Chop up cucumbers into medium-size chunks before adding to food processor.

Add all finely chopped vegetables to large container and mix well; add salt, cold water and ice cubes; let set for 2 hours. Drain and rinse with cold water, using a colander to drain off all water thoroughly.

All of the finely chopped veggies.

All of the finely chopped veggies.

In large pot, combine sugar, apple cider vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed; bring to boil. Add vegetables and bring up to high simmer; cook for 10 minutes.

Pack hot relish in pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at top of jar. To remove bubbles in each jar before capping with lid, insert butter knife and giving mixture slight stir.

To prepare lids for jars, add lids to cold water in small saucepan, add enough water to cover lids, and heat water up to simmer. As you add lids to water in saucepan, rotate lids up and down. By rotating the lids in this fashion, they will be easier to remove from hot water; otherwise it can be hard to get them apart, especially when they are hot.

Add lids to cold water in small saucepan.

Use this wonderful magnetic gadget to remove lids from hot water.

Use this wonderful magnetic gadget to remove lids from hot water.

Remove lids from hot water, one at a time, place on jar of relish and seal snugly with a ring.

Put capped jars in canner, with enough water in canner to measure 4 inches deep after jars have been added to canner. Bring water in canner to low boil and boil relish for 25 minutes.

Lay dry towel on counter, remove hot jars from canner and set on towel. Let set 24 hours before moving jars and removing rings.

Before placing in pantry, press down on each lid with index finger to make sure jar is sealed. (An improperly sealed jar will make a noise like a hiccup when you press your fingers on top of the lid. If there is no noise or give in the lid as you press down on it, the jar sealed well.)

If any did not seal, store unsealed jars in refrigerator and use as needed. Jars that successfully sealed can be stored in pantry, for 1 year or longer.

Don't be alarmed, normally heating process in canner allows for lids to seal well; for this batch, all 28 pints sealed perfectly.

Ready for the table a wonderful zesty relish!

Ready for the table a wonderful zesty relish!

**Hint add 1/2 cup vinegar to canner to keep water stains from forming on jars as they cook.

For more delicious recipes see my food blog, Slice of Taste.


Easy Whole Grain Focaccia

Valerie BoeseDo you eat whole grains? Eating whole grains can be easy in theory, but actually doing it, can be a challenge with today’s meals. I have been looking and I do not see very much, if any, whole grains in our everyday American diet. I think most people really don’t know what whole grains are, let alone know how to cook them. You probably think of whole grains as whole wheat bread, raisin bran cereal, or oatmeal. While these are whole grains, there are many more types of whole grains.

Let’s define whole grains: Whole grains contain the germ, endosperm and the bran. Types include brown rice, millet, bulgur, quinoa, barley and many more. I think most people believe they need to eat whole grains for fiber, which is partly true, but whole grains offer so much more than fiber. Whole grains are good sources of the protein, vitamins and minerals that our body needs to be healthy. For example, 2 tablespoons of wheat germ has 10 minerals, with six being trace minerals, two times the daily requirement for Omega-3 fatty acid (which raises the good cholesterol in your body and removes the bad cholesterol), and two times the daily requirement of vitamin E, plus 3 grams of protein, wow, all of this in just in two tablespoons.

Whole grains

I figure we are not meant to be overweight; this isn’t rocket science, we plainly are not eating enough of the right types foods to give our body proper nutrition, so we are always hungry, eating more of the wrong types of foods that make us eat more of the wrong types of foods, a vicious circle that can lead to obesity, diabetes, etc. We really need to think about adding whole grains back in to our diet, eating foods that will provide nutrition that will satisfy our hunger.

I made the change; I decided to start adding a variety of whole grains into my everyday cooking. I started with ground flax, wheat germ, millet, barley and bulgur. I found I could add wheat germ to pancake batter, meatloaf, hamburgers and homemade breads. I have been adding millet, barley and bulgur to my broth-based soups. I found flax is easy to add to fruit smoothies and cooked oatmeal. There are many more whole grains that I am excited to try. Cooking with new grains is an adventure; they offer new flavors and textures, making meals for my family tastier and healthier. Buying whole grains today is easy; they are now readily available in most grocery stores, in the healthy food aisle.

Check out one of my latest whole grain recipe, Easy Whole Grain Focaccia. It was easy to make using my bread machine. I took my white flour recipe and substituted ground flax, wheat germ and white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour is a grain that has been milled using white wheat, which tastes similar to bleached white flour, except, it is way more nutritious.

Whole Grain Focaccia transforms an old Italian favorite in to a healthy whole grain bread. The bread is topped with olive oil, sautéed red onions and rosemary. The smell of this bread baking in your kitchen is so amazing; the aroma of fresh-baked bread combined with the savory smell of rosemary is oh so wonderful. Try this bread with your next meal as is or top it with garlic butter, and toast it under the oven broiler. Yum!

Use savory ingredients, rosemary and red onion. Complete recipe follows.

Rosemary and Red Onion

Add yeast to warm water to let it work first.

Let yeast work in warm water

To make, add the ingredients to your bread machine and use the dough or pizza cycle; some bread machines note pizza for their dough cycle. When the dough cycle finishes, divide dough into two pieces. The dough may be a little sticky, lightly flour each half and press each on to a cookie sheet layered with a sheet of parchment paper or oiled well. Shape each piece of dough into an oval pressing it down and spreading it out on the pan, to about 1/2-inch thick. Then top each shaped oval piece with half of the red onion, rosemary and oil mixture.

Press dough out

Let rise in a warm place. I will turn on my overhead stove light and let it rise there for about 1 hour. You can tell it is done rising, when you put a small dent in dough with your finger, about 1/4 inch deep and the dough does not bounce back. Add to preheated oven at 375 F and bake for 1 to -15 minutes until golden brown.

Ready for oven!

Ready for oven!

Ready to eat ... Yum!

Ready to eat...Yum!

Tastes wonderful warm with butter.

Whole Grain Focaccia Bread

Whole Grain Focaccia
3/4 cup water heated to 105 to 110 F
1  1/2 teaspoons of yeast
1  1/2 cup white bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat white flour
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup wheat germ
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter chopped in several pieces
1 large egg
3 tablespoons olive or corn oil (olive oil is best)
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed

Add yeast to warm water and let set for 6 minutes.

Once the yeast mixture is done working, add to it flours, flax, wheat germ, sugar, salt, butter, yeast water mixture and egg to bread machine cannister. Set bread machine to dough or pizza cycle and let it run.

While dough is being made. Add olive oil to medium frying pan and add rosemary and red onion slices, heat on medium heat until onion is tender.

Once the cycle is finished, remove dough from bread machine canister and on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into half. (Use two cookie sheets, cover each cookie sheet with parchment paper or cooking oil.) Lay one piece of dough on each cookie sheet. Pat each piece of dough in to an oval shape about 1/2-inch thick, top with cooked rosemary and red onion mixture. Let rise for about 1 hour.

Hint: The dough will be done rising when you slightly dent the dough about 1/4 inch with your finger and the dough does not pop back.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for about 18 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Everyone Should Give Gardening a Try

Valerie BoeseIt is first week of February and I am really missing my fresh vegetables from my garden. If you’re a gardener you are probably missing them too; if you’re not a gardener, you should consider becoming one. You may think growing a vegetable garden is a difficult task that will take a lot of time, but it’s not true. Growing vegetables is easy; you simply need a sunny spot in your yard with full sun, six or more hours a day of sunshine, fertilizer, and water sometimes, depending on your climate. It won’t take a ton of your time either, by doing a little bit each day or every couple of days, it is easy. It is kind of like laundry, do a little each day, no worries, but let it pile up for a week and then it’s a job. With a 16-by-16-foot garden plot, you probably would only need to spend about an hour a week total, keeping it watered, weeded and harvested, not bad for the vegetables you will receive, in return for your minimal effort.

Fresh summer vegetables are the best! 

Cauliflower is easy to grow, grows best when planted early in the spring while it is still cool.

Growing Fresh Cauliflour is Easy to do.

A vegetable garden will benefit you in many ways. You will have an abundance of fresh vegetables, getting outside working in the dirt is a good stress reliever, you can choose to grow pesticide-free vegetables, and you will be a more self-reliant and less dependent on grocery stores. There is nothing like going to your garden and picking your own vegetables. I call it “going to my garden store.” It thrills me to go to my garden and swoop up an armful or fresh vegetables for a wonderful fresh salad or hearty soup.

Onions are easy to grow and are great in soups.

Onions make soups taste good.

Growing your own foods is “you” doing your tiny part to contribute to the worlds food supply. If you produce food, it means there will be more food available, and more food available means more people will have food to eat. I have often pondered that concept; what if all the people who have the space for a garden took advantage of that garden spot and planted a garden? Wouldn’t that be a great way to add to our world’s food supply that would feed more people?

Homegrown sweet corn is succulent right off the cob.

Fresh Sweetcorn

Another benefit when you grow your own vegetables, you tend to eat more vegetables, which potentially makes you healthier and feel better. Convenience is a plus too, just go out to your backyard and grab whatever vegetables you need for dinner. Growing your own vegetables can save you money too, buying plants and seeds are relatively cheap compared to the rising costs of vegetables, especially organic vegetables.

Tomatoes are fun to grow, there are so many different types to enjoy.

Fresh Tomatoes

Gardening is my passion “wow,” just throw a few seeds into the dirt and produce, delicious fresh vegetables; that never ceases to amaze me. I love watching them grow from seed to harvest. However, my passion gets a little carried away sometimes, like planting 23 different kinds of tomatoes and 300 pepper plants, like I did last year. My family just rolls their eyes and chuckles, saying something like, “no, not again, Mom,” However, they support my garden addiction, pitching into help me plant, weed and harvest as we go through the summer.

Gardening is a family affair; we work and have fun together in the garden. We have our big garden events, planting the potatoes, harvesting all the tomatoes and peppers before a frost, picking the sweet corn and freezing it for winter, and digging potatoes. These are garden projects that we always work together to complete. They give us wonderful family memories of the time spent in the garden. How come everyone doesn’t grow a garden or grow at least one vegetable or herb? Think about it and give it a try this next spring. Grow a vegetable, herb or plant a small garden, grow something to eat, you surely will enjoy it.

Japanese eggplant is delicious grilled and put over rice.

Delicious Vegetables

Biggee Chile Peppers are great grilled and tossed in with tomatoes.

Fresh Vegetables of Summer

Homegrown popcorn is the best tasting popcorn!


Flowering Kale is pretty and can be eaten in soups and salads.


Create an Edible Landscape by Growing Small Fruits

Valerie BoeseCreate an edible landscape, plant small fruits. Adding small fruits to your landscape is pretty easy to do. You simply need sufficient space, with full sun. Small fruits do not need a lot of space to grow, so they are pretty easy to incorporate into your landscape. Most berries are pretty hardy and can tolerate cold in the winter and heat in summer. The best part, you get to pick your own fresh fruit, which tastes out of this world.

Our Nebraska climate conditions can be as cold as 15 below in the winter, like it was yesterday, with highs in the 90s in the summer, yet we successfully grow many small fruits. My family grows honeyberries, service berries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, aronia berry and grapes on our small acreage. By growing several different types of berries, you can enjoy fresh fruit, from beginning of summer to end of fall.

Growing grapes in your backyard is easy to do! 

Growing grapes in your backyard is easy.

We grow honeyberries and service berries, which are similar to blueberries. Our honeyberries ripen first of May. Honeyberries are a small conical shaped berry that do not need acidic soil to grow in, where blueberries do need acidic soil to grow. I have tried to grow blueberries, many times, and after about third year they die out, due to my soil not being acidic enough. I have tried to make the soil acidic, with amendments to the soil, but have not had good luck. The service berry, also called June berry or Saskatoon, is a great tasting small black round berry that and tastes and looks like a blueberry, but does not need the soil to be acidic. An attractive looking ornamental bush, it grows similar in size to a lilac bush, with nice fall color. Both honeyberries and service berries are good alternatives to blueberries.

Strawberries ripen around the first of June. There are two types of strawberries: June bearer and ever bearer. There are many of both varieties to choose from. We grow June bearers because the berries are larger and your crop will be much larger than the ever bearer type strawberry. The ever bearer strawberry does not bear fruit all summer as the name might imply; its bearing season is about 10 days longer than the June bearer.

Strawberries are easy to grow, and they are a perennial, meaning they will come back year after year. Strawberries grow out runners to start new plants. The new plants will bear fruit the following year; you want to make sure they do not get too crowded and there is room to send out new runners that start the new plants. Patches three to four years old sometimes need to be thinned out. Crop production will drop drastically if the patch becomes too crowded. A good way make room for new plants is to use a garden tiller and till a couple strips through your established patch; this will make room for runners to grow new plants for next year’s crop.

Black and red rasberries are wonderful to pick fresh.

Black and red raspberries are wonderful to pick fresh off the vine.

Black and red raspberries ripen in June and July, with some varieties having a second crop in the fall. We grow both red and black raspberries, and they thrive here Nebraska. We grow Heritage red raspberry that produces large sweet red berries; they bear fruit first in the summer and then again in the fall. Heritage does extremely well here; last fall we picked more than 20 pounds from a small patch that started with three plants five years ago. Red raspberries spread by shooting up shoots from the base of the plant, and ourthree plants spread into a patch 10 by 15 feet.

Black raspberries spread similar to a strawberry, sending out shoots that root themselves into the ground to start new plants. It is recommended that black raspberries be planted at least 75 feet away from other berry plants, as they sometimes carry a disease that can kill other types of berries, including red raspberries. With both red and black raspberries, we fertilize them in the spring and cut out any dead canes.

Blackberries are pickde from July to fall.

Blackberries are picked from July to fall.

Blackberries ripen first of July; interestingly, blackberries are rated to grow in Zone 6, which is a climate zone several degrees warmer than Zone 5, where I live. Several years ago, I experimented by planting blackberries close to the south side of my house, thinking it would be a little warmer there and they might be able to survive growing in Zone 5. Amazingly they did really well, and I decided to plant additional blackberry plants at the edge of my garden in the open away from the house, and found they grew wonderfully there too. We have planted thornless Prim-Jim, Chester and Arapaho. All grow well here, producing an abundance of fruit from mid-July to late fall. The Chester has particularly large sweet berries measuring 1 to 1 1/2 inches long that are very yummy. Like raspberries, we remove the dead canes and fertilize them in the spring.

Aronia berries are so healthy for you and easy to grow.

Aronia berries are so healthy for you and easy to grow. 

Aronia berries are one of my favorite. Small round, sweet, tart tasting, they have tremendous health benefits, with 30 percent more antioxidants than blueberries. They are good for cardiovascular health and have many other benefits. They are a small shrub that you can plant and forget. They are disease resistant, bug resistant and very cold hardy. They also have a beautiful fall color, with green leaves turning to bright orange. We have two bushes about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and they produce 14 to 15 pounds of fruit per year. We pick them at the end of August, wash them, bag them and freeze them. We enjoy them in smoothies with our raspberries and blackberries all winter long.

Grapes are so wonderfully sweet and flavorful when picked fresh.

Grapes are so wonderfully sweet and flavorful when picked fresh. 

Our grapes start ripening first of August and will bear fruit well into October. Grapes are easy to grow, and there are many varieties to choose from. Grapes do need to be pruned back in the spring and fertilized. We also spray our grapes with an organic herbicide for disease. We have planted table grapes for fresh eating, juice and jams. We have blue, red and green, seedless and seeded grapes, growing in our backyard. I chose varieties rated to growing in Zones 4 and 5.

Seeded Concords are probably the most reliable fruit bearers of all the varieties we have planted. Most of the clusters on the Concords will ripen near the end of August, and with a few clusters ripening much later well into October. These I like best; when I take my fall walks, I like to grab fresh grapes to munch on as I walk, and they taste so good.

Start planning now to plant your own small fruits this coming spring. Small fruits are easy to grow and the reward of fresh fruit will be yours, for many years to come. Not only will you have fresh fruit, you will be adding beauty to your landscape, like a grape vine over an arbor or the brilliant fall colors of the Aronia. There is nothing like walking out into your yard and picking your own fresh fruit.

Aronia berries make great nutritious bars.

Aronia berries make tasty nutritious bars. 

White grapes are juicy and sweet.

White grapes are juicy and sweet. 

How about enjoying a whole plate full of grapes.

Enjoy blue and red grapes, sweet and wonderful. 

Oaxacan Wholegrain Corn Muffins

Valerie BoeseLooking for something unique to grow in your garden? Next spring try this amazing heirloom, plant Oaxacan Green Dent Corn. Oaxacan is an easy corn to grow and will grow wherever you can grow sweet corn. It is a very old unique heirloom that was grown by the Zapotec Indians of southern Mexico. They used it to make green flour tamales and cornbread. Green dent was grown along with squash, chocolate, chilies and beans. The corn will grow about 7 feet tall and matures out in 75 to 100 days.

You can harvest it in the fall, after the husks have dried and turned yellow. Remove husks from the ears of the harvested corn and store ears in a dry place for a few weeks. I stored mine in a spare bedroom where it was cool and dry. Removing the corn kernels is called shelling the corn. It is time to shell the corn when the kernels can be flaked easily off the cob. When the corn is easy to shell, it is then dry enough to be ground into corn flour.

Oaxacan Green Dent Corn 

You can grind green dent corn with an electric coffee bean grinder and use the ground cornmeal any way you would use regular store-bought cornmeal. Grinding the kernels into cornmeal is pretty easy to do with an electric coffee bean grinder. It only took me about 10 minutes to grind up about 2 cups. It is simple: Add the corn kernels to your grinder, like you would add coffee beans, and grind them until they turn in to cornmeal.

Interestingly, as I picked the green dent corn last fall, many thoughts came to my mind. For my family, growing the green dent corn was just a fun little garden project, but what was it like for the Zapotec Indians? Would a poor harvest of Oaxacan corn have been detrimental to their livelihood? Where did they store it, in their temples? Did they have harvest celebrations, what did growing the corn really mean to the Zapotec people? How could it have lasted for so many years? It almost felt like a privilege to pick the green dent. It all kind of gave me goose bumps thinking about the history behind the green dent corn.

We are so fortunate that Oaxacan green dent corn has survived hundreds of years and was not lost by the test of time. Unlike other heirloom varieties that have been lost through hybridization that developed our modern-day hybrids or simply lost because no one wanted to plant them anymore. We are surely thankful for our modern-day hybrids, but how unique it is that Oaxacan green dent has not been lost, and we can still grow it today, just as it was grown hundreds of years ago by the Zapotec Indians.

Today, I husked my green dent corn, shelled it and ground it into corn flour. How exciting, making my first corn muffins from my own ground Oaxacan green dent corn. I made the corn flour into corn muffins, and they turned out absolutely delicious. The corn has a really good fresh ground corn taste. No, it is not GMO – “genetically modified organism” – or fed with chemicals to make it grow and keep pests away, it just grew by itself, as it has been growing for hundreds of years.

Try my recipe. By the way you can substitute cornmeal from your local grocery store and, maybe next spring, you will consider growing Oaxacan Green Dent Corn in your garden.

Scroll down for the recipe.

Grind up your cornmeal, make the batter and fill your cupcake pan.

Finished baking and hot out of the oven!

Oaxacan Wholegrain Corn Muffins

3/4 cup cornmeal – Oaxacan or substitute regular cornmeal from your grocer
1 cup white whole wheat flour or white flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk or substitute regular milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons molasses

Preheat oven to 425 F. Oil cupcake pan or muffin tin, or use cupcake liners for easy removal; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.

In separate medium-sized bowl, combine buttermilk, egg, butter, honey and molasses.

Pour wet mixture into dry mixture bowl and mix well.

Pour mixture into prepared pan, dividing evenly to make 12 muffins.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Check for doneness with a small knife or toothpick; insert into muffin and when the knife or toothpick comes out clean with no batter sticking to it, they are done. Serve warm with butter and/or honey.

Delicious served warm with honey and butter, oh yeah!

The Over Achiever Veggie

Valerie BoeseGrowing your own fresh vegetables is very rewarding. However, sometimes we get over rewarded with a particular vegetable. I call this baby the “over achiever veggie.” This is a veggie that has over achieved way above any of its previous year’s plantings. So what do you do when you have an “over achiever veggie”? I get creative and start preparing that veggie in many different ways. I get very determined that my family and I are going to eat all of it – easier said than done, sometimes over achiever veggies are not always fully appreciated.

Every year I seem to have at least one over achiever. This year is no exception; butternut squash wins my “over achiever veggie” award. We have oodles of it, so guess what we have been eating? Squash! I have been pan frying, baking and stir frying it with other veggies. We probably have been eating it three to four times a week. Maybe a bit too much for my family; I am thinking I better come up with a new way to eat squash or I will be the only one eating it.

Over the weekend I had a little more time to be creative with my cooking, and I came up with a recipe for butternut squash soup. Squash soup, hmm, that does not sound too appealing, I am sure my family will run the other direction if I tell them, “dinners ready, time for squash soup.” I can just see them rolling their eyes and hear their father saying, “Let’s go out for dinner.”

Hmm, this is going to be a challenge; I thought I had better be creative in naming my new squash soup. I decided to call it Creamy Butternut Potato Soup. Everyone likes potatoes, right? And we all like creamy stuff. You may have noticed I left the word squash out of the soup title. I figured this way, my family will at least try my new soup, and I am sure with my keen cooking skills I can win them over.

I made the Creamy Butternut Potato Soup, and my family really truly enjoyed the soup; they thought it was very delicious, so unlike the fried or baked version of squash they had been eating. They could not believe they were eating butternut squash in such a delicious way. Scroll down for my recipe; it truly is a delicious thick, flavorful and creamy soup. I can’t wait to make it again, but maybe not three to four times a week.

Creamy Butternut Potato Soup

Creamy Butternut Potato Soup

  • 3 cups butternut squash
  • 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) chicken broth (I recommend low sodium), divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes (about 3 medium sized)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrots (small pieces)
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (substitute 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 4 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Croutons

Cut a medium-sized butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until tender. Hint: I pour a little water in the cavity of the squash to help it cook up tender.

Butternut Squash cut in half, remove seeds. 

Bake Butternut Squash 

Add cooked squash to food processor with 1 can chicken broth and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to large saucepan, add second can of broth and stir it all together with salt. Bring this mixture up to a high simmer, watching it closely so it does not burn, it can be pretty thick.

Scoop out the baked squash.  

In separate sauce pan, add 2 tablespoons butter to large fry pan, and melt butter over medium heat. To melted butter, add potatoes, celery, onion, and carrots, and sauté veggies for 10 minutes at medium heat, stirring occasionally so they don't burn. Then, pour the cooked veggies into squash mixture and continue simmering for 20 minutes until all veggies are tender.

Use delicious fresh veggies for this creamy soup. 

To the cooked mixture, add the sweet red pepper, parsley, white wine, and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add half and half. and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, just until the soup warms back up. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and croutons or your favorite soup crackers.

Enjoy this delicious easy to make Creamy Butternut Potato Soup!

Apple Abundance

Valerie BoeseFall is the time to enjoy the abundance of apples. Apples are everywhere this time of year. Local markets have many varieties to offer, with local orchards selling these tasty fruits. Or perhaps you have an apple tree in your backyard or your neighbor has an apple tree, giving you fresh apples. Anyway you get them, apples are in season and taste so good this time of year. There are abundant ways to use apples; the best way is to eat them fresh or you can shred them in your pancake batter, add a little cinnamon and you have a wonderful apple pancake. Apples make great desserts too. Everyone loves apple pie – there's nothing like a slice of hot apple pie to take the chill out of the air and satisfy your taste buds.

My family has several apple trees, and we are usually very fortunate to have some extras to can and store fresh for winter. I like to can apples and use them for desserts and pies through the winter. Canning your own apples taste so much better than what you buy in the store and you know what is in them. Apples are very easy to can. I peel and slice them then cook them up on the stove with cinnamon, until fully cooked. Once they are fully cooked, I pack them in jars, using canning lids and rings from Ball or Kerr. I add the pints to the hot bath canner, and boil at a light boil for 25 minutes or quarts for 40 minutes. Canned apples are great to use in pies, pastries and apple crisp. For more information on canning, check Ball's website.

I like to grow a variety of apples here in northeast Nebraska. We grow Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Wolf and Macintosh. These are reliable varieties that produce fruit for us almost every year. I find that not all apple trees will give you a reliable apple crop, probably because of the late frosts we have in the spring, killing the flowers before the fruit can develop. Some bloom a little later or are a little more frost tolerant. I like growing Gala, because they give me an early crop, usually ready around mid-August. The Gala, Fuji and Red Delicious are all good eating apples where the Wolf and Macintosh are better for cooking. They are a little tart, but just right for cooking. Using apples that have a tart flavor will give you a much better flavored apple desert or pies. The Wolf and Macintosh are good for cooking and are ready to be picked around first of September. The Fuji isn’t ready until mid- or end of October, which works out perfect. We have been eating the Galas for six weeks now. I can pick the Fuji and bag them up for winter. Storing Fujis in sealed food storage bags in the refrigerator keeps them fresh well up to six months. The Fuji is my favorite eating apple; they have so much flavor and stay so nice and crisp. 

Today I made an apple crisp with fresh apples. Apple crisp is always so good; I make it with old fashioned oatmeal, fresh apples and cinnamon. Very tasty and very easy to make. The full recipe is below.

Get your apples ready, slice and peel them; the apple peeler I use works well.

Peel and slice apples for Old Fashioned Apple Crisp

Add apples to baking dish.

Add sliced apples to baking dish

Top apples with flour, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

Pour brown sugar, butter, and oatmeal mixture over apples

Ready for oven.

Ready for the oven

Ready to eat, oh yeah!!

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp

8 cups peeled and sliced apples (use cooking apple like Macintosh, Jonathan or Wolf)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
3 tablesoons flour
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel and slice raw apples and add to 9-by-13 baking dish.

Mix together flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar and sprinkle over apples.

On stove top in medium size saucepan, melt butter at medium heat, turn off stove. To melted butter, add remaining brown sugar, remaining cinnamon and oatmeal; mix well. 

Pour oatmeal mixture over raw apples, covering all of the apples. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until oatmeal has turned golden brown.