Frugal Accomplishments This Week

IMG_4686The garden is winding down, but I still got a few things this week.  I picked some zucchini, a few peas and pea pods, some strawberries, a few ripe tomatoes, peppers, and a lot of green tomatoes.  We harvested sweetmeat squash, and have plans to can salsa verde tomorrow.

IMG_1570I have gained so much pleasure from these zinnias this summer.  The seeds were purchased from the dollar store–4/packs for $1.  Since you don’t get very many seeds per package, I bought a handful.  I think I remember planting around 8 packs in my flowerbed.  They grew profusely.  We picked many bouquets and enjoyed looking at them outside my kitchen window.  I feel like I really got my $2 worth and will miss them when it frosts.

IMG_1522We had a wonderful vacation at Sunriver, Oregon.  My aunt kindly invited us to be her guest at her time share.  We took our 3 youngest children and a friend, filling our 6-person unit with fun and laughter.  Our children loved watching tv channels, as we don’t pay for cable at home.  We hiked around the paths, rode the bikes that came with the unit, and the kids swam in the pool.  We took sandwiches for the trip over, and cooked in the unit for the most part.  Each night for dinner, we ate together with my mom and aunt.  Sometimes they cooked, and sometimes we did.    We got the kids a few burritos at Taco Bell, and ate out on the way home, making the trip very affordable.  I took some projects with me and worked on them during my down time.

IMG_1577

A friend thought of us and gave me a banana box of cauliflower she gleaned.  We have several heads to eat fresh and froze 30 quart-sized zip-top bags full.  I wrote a post about how we did it here.

It was a good week.

Freezing Cauliflower

IMG_1577IMG_1580I was blessed when a friend gave me an entire banana box full of cauliflower she had gleaned from a field that was about to be tilled up.  I was delighted to get it and decided to freeze it.  Some of it was a little muddy from the field, but I washed it very well and then chopped it into pieces.  Then I blanched it for 3 minutes in boiling water in my blanching pot.  You could drop it into a pot of boiling water and fish it out with a sieve after 3 minutes if you didn’t have one, but having it contained in a colander makes it easier.  After that, the cauliflower was dumped into cold water in my very clean sink.  The water was changed frequently so the cauliflower could cool down.  When it floats, it is still too warm.  Once it sinks, it is cool enough and was fished out and placed into a colander to drain.  I was able to get 30 quart sized zip-top bags full.  We love it eat it with cheese on top during the winter.  It was a totally unexpected way to spend my evening, and I was very tired when I finally got to bed last night, but I was excited to have the cauliflower.  A lot of food preservation happens when you “seize the moment” and I’m glad I did!  My food storage was increased by quite a bit because my friend thought of me.

Sweetmeat Squash Harvest

IMG_4680

Sweetmeat squash curing on the fireplace hearth.
Sweetmeat squash curing on the fireplace hearth.

We were blessed with a huge harvest of Sweetmeat squash.  In the picture above, my 15-year-old, Ja’Ana,  is bringing a wheelbarrow full up to the house for curing.  There are many more down in the second garden by the barn.  Some of these may be too small and immature to be good, but most are going to be delicious.   We will sort them out by color, choosing to take the grayish ones over the greener ones.  Also, the mature ones will be harder, and usually bigger.  If we really can’t tell by looking, we simply open one up, cook a little bit in the microwave, and we know right away whether or not it has the delicious flavor we expect, or whether it is chicken food.

You will notice in the picture that Ja’Ana cut them off with a knife, leaving a stem.  This helps them stay good longer.   We also put them in a dry place in the house for a couple of weeks to cure.  This seems to lengthen their life as well.

After they have been cured, we store them in the garage or shop in a cool location.  Usually, we store them in a single layer.  Sometimes we use newspaper to put them on, as seen in the picture above.  At times, we have stacked squash in plastic crates in the garage.  Last year, they were out in the shop on a pallet and the mice crept up through the boards and ate holes in them!  We’ve even had chickens peck holes in them when we’ve left them out too long!  So, we’ve learned to be more careful and you can be sure they aren’t going into the shop this year.

Once we have the squash cured and stored well they keep for months.  If one gets a soft spot, usually that can be cut out and the rest cooked and frozen, thereby saving most of the affected squash.

To break one of these open, we use a hatchet and chop it.  A large knife will work, but it is hard to safely cut it with a knife.  Another method we have used is to drop the squash on a hard surface, such as a concrete sidewalk.  It will break and can then be cleaned.  The seeds are removed with a spoon, and the cut pieces are set onto a foil-lined cookie sheet and placed into a 350 degree oven.  The squash is then roasted until soft, anywhere from 1 hour to 2, depending on the size of the pieces.  It is done when a fork can easily pierce the flesh.  Then the cooked squash is scooped out with a large spoon and ran through a food mill.  I use a Foley Food Mill that I have had for years.

Because the squash are so large, it is nearly impossible for our family to eat one up before it goes bad.  We simply freeze the puree.

We use squash in many ways.  Sometimes it is served as a vegetable, and brown sugar is often sprinkled on top.  We use this squash to make all of our pumpkin pies and other baked goods that call for pumpkin.  It is less stringy than true pumpkin and has a very sweet flavor and a non-watery texture.

Vacation at Sunriver

This past week, we enjoyed a week at Sunriver, Oregon, thanks to my aunt.  When she invited us, we joyfully accepted and spent a very relaxing week with her and my mom.  We took many walks, fished, swam, rode bikes and visited a quilt shop nearby.  I took several projects along with me that had been sitting around the house for far too long, and got quite a bit done on them.  The weather was beautiful and we saw a lot of wildlife, such as these geese in the picture I took.image3

Friday Project

FullSizeRender copyI have been working on finishing some projects that have been hanging around for quite a while.  Last fall, I embroidered the center for this wall hanging.  This week, while on vacation, I pieced the border, put on the backing and binding and finished it up.  It took a long time to get everything straight and even because I am working on a different sewing machine and because I have not quilted for a while and am rusty.

I had to replace my travel machine this past winter because the old one wore out and I am loving the new one.  It’s really important while quilting to make sure you are sewing a perfect 1/4″ seam, but I figured it out after a few tries.

I’m really excited that I finished this project.  I plan to use it when I host Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year.

What have you been working on this week?