How To Make {Amazing} Zucchini Chips

It's the middle of summer and we've all got more zucchini & summer squash than we know what to do with....right?

A quick and easy way to use up some of those delicious vegetables are to dehydrate them into crunchy, crispy, healthy "chips".  You won't ever want another potato chip after you taste how delicious your own homemade zucchini chips can be.  

Start by picking squashes that are of a good size, because they'll shrink quite a bit in the dehydrator.  Don't pick them too large, they'll lose some flavor at that point.

Wash your squash and then slice using a "medium" or "thin" setting on your mandolin.  Watch your finger tips! 

Put all of the slices of zucchini into a bowl, and here's the secret to making the BEST zucchini chips you've ever had.  Salad dressing. Yes, salad dressing!  Put a Tbs. or so of your favorite salad dressing into the bowl, just enough to barely coat the zucchini slices.  Flavoring your zucchini chips is easy when you use your favorite salad dressings, olive oil, salt & pepper or any other dried herb that your family loves.  Experiment with flavors. Make each tray on your dehydrator a different flavor.  Just remember when adding wet ingredients to spice up the flavor of your chips, only add barely enough to cover the squash. The thinnest coating you can get on them.  When they dehydrate the flavors will only intensify. 

Dry on your dehydrator for 6-8 hours depending on how thick your chips were cut.  Pull from dehydrator when crisp, but not brown.    Let cool, then remove from dehydrator trays.  Store in an airtight container, and enjoy.  

Some of our favorite varieties to grow for these chips are: "Black Beauty", "Caserta" and "Cocozelle".

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Squash Blossoms

We all love seeing those yellow and orange blossoms on our squash plants.  Not all squash blossoms will produce squash however, and here's why.  All plants produce both male and female blossoms, and only the female blossom will mature into squash.  




The male blossoms are there for fertilization and they can quickly outweigh and outnumber the female blossoms.  They grow on long stalks, and there is no sign of a baby squash developing at their base. 






The female blossoms you'll generally find close to the center of the plant, on shorter stalks.  Once fertilized they quickly balloon into a small squash and the blossom will fall off of the end. 

Did you know that the blossoms of winter and summer squash plants are edible? Well they are.  So when you see the male flowers, feel free to pick them.  Squash blossoms make a lovely garnish and they are the perfect size for stuffing. The flavor of a squash blossom is cool and crisp, and you may even be able to taste a hint of squash as an undertone in their flavor.  

They generally don't store long in the refrigerator, no longer than a day, so pick only when you're ready to use them in your cooking.   They are bright and delicate, so when harvesting them choose the ones that look the most fresh, with closed buds. 

Add these blossoms to soups, salads and entrees. One full cup of squash blossoms only contains about 5 calories. Don't forget they are high in vitamin A & C.  Most would say they are best when stuffed, battered and fried.  

Want to try some Squash Blossoms? Check out this board on Pinterest! 

Follow's board Squash Blossom Recipes on Pinterest.

{Fresh} Lettuce {Longer}. Our tips for Growing, Keeping & Harvesting Lettuce.

 Growing lettuce is easy, and with so many varieties to choose from, you're sure to find one that everyone in the family can enjoy.  Some prefer mild lettuces, while others might enjoy the "bite" that comes with a mustard green.   Either way, the growing techniques are usually the same as well as the storage procedures. 

1. Generally, you're told to plant lettuce seeds far enough apart for the plant to fully mature, but most gardeners prefer planting them much closer together because they enjoy harvesting the leaves when they are young and tender.  Plant your lettuce in small spaces, in-between flowers, even in containers. Lettuce grows great in many locations and doesn't mind being shaded a little bit. 

2. We recommend sowing new lettuce seeds every 30 days, that way you'll have a few new heads to harvest each month.  

3. When harvesting, pick from the lower leaves first. They are the most mature.

4. Lettuce can be harvested at any size really. The smaller the leaf, the more tender and mild the leaf will be. If you're looking for more robust flavor, especially with the mustard greens, wait until they are large and fully matured. Most mustard leaves can reach 8" long. 

5. If you're harvesting a lot of lettuce at one time, try to do it during the coolest part of the day. It will help keep the lettuce from wilting as quickly.  

6. Speaking of wilted lettuce... we've all had it.  We harvest a beautiful head of lettuce and then a few days later we look in the fridge and it's ends are wilted and it seems to look less than appetizing.  There's an easy fix to "less than firm and crunchy" lettuce.  Wash your sink out, then fill with ice and water. Submerge your wilted lettuce in the ice bath for 2-5 minutes and the lettuce will become crisp as it was the moment you harvested it.  

7. When storing your lettuce, keep it sealed in an airtight container, with a damp paper-towel.  You should easily get 2 weeks from your lettuce if you store it like this.  You can even wash and chop your lettuce, then store as above for a "quick" and "easy" meal.   

Have you sowed any lettuce seeds this month?  Remember, every 30 days for a continual harvest.
Try planting a different variety each month. 

Mid-July, Garden Walk Through

We're harvesting fresh turnips out of our gardens every day now. The color of the "purple-top, white globe" turnips make me smile every time I see that bright color pop up out of the ground. We're also growing the "golden globe" variety. We love them both!  You generally sow turnip seeds in the spring and fall. If planting them in the fall, just harvest them before the your first heavy frost comes along. Turnips can take as little as 60 days to mature and they keep well in cold storage. Don't forget to eat the greens. 

Our mint has done so well this summer. We couldn't be happier with all of the different varieties we're growing and we're having a hard time keeping up with them.  

We try to dehydrate as much of it as we can, that way we'll have it to use in hot beverages this fall and winter. 

We did a decent harvest of chamomile the other day, and we used the dehydrator to preserve that as well.  We love drinking hot chamomile tea.

Our fig tree has a few tiny figs on it.  This is probably one of my most treasured living things in our garden. I'm excited to be able to grow and harvest our own figs, and I have a million recipes I'm waiting to try. 

The beans are growing a little bigger everyday.   This is the first year we have grown the "tongue of fire" beans, and they are really interesting to look at.  

They add a bright burst of color down in that section of the garden and seem to be doing well planted next to some cabbage we have down there. 

They are still young and tender right now, and we've been eating a few fresh off the vine.  

We have started sowing our fall and winter crops around the gardens, and most of what we planted down in the raised beds have all germinated and are growing fast. 

It took just a few days in all of this warm summer heat we've been having here in the Pacific Northwest. 

Our sunflowers, tomatoes, cukes, carrots and onions are loving the warm weather as well. 

Here's the lemongrass we've been re-growing from a kitchen scrap.  A few months ago, we received lemongrass in our Bountiful Basket, and we saved the end and put it in a small jar with some water. Once there was a little bit of new growth on the top, we planted it in the soil and it's been growing well ever since.

The saying goes, that once you've got sunflowers blooming, it's time to start planning your fall and winter garden. We've been busy purchasing seeds, laying out our raised beds and starting seeds in peat pods. 

We didn't have to plant any "borage" seeds this year, because this gorgeous perennial plant that we had last year has spread like wildfire. It's starting to bloom around many parts of our gardens and we love having it around. In fact, we're hoping it spreads even more next year. The flowers attract a lot of bees which are great for the garden and they are also edible with a sweet flavor, similar to that of a cucumber. We toss them on salads or eat them right off the plant when we walk by. 

We're waiting for our cucumbers to take off and start growing up our ramp over the broccoli, and they are close to grabbing on. Maybe another few days is all, and then they'll be on their way to the top of this, providing great shade for our Brassica plants. 

We trimmed up the hugelkulture bed a little to make room for all the growth that was coming up.  The airflow has been improved a little bit and we're getting a lot of bright yellow blossoms, new everyday.  We're preparing ourselves for the high yield of squash and melons that are already growing on these plants.

How to Make Watermelon Candy

With summer comes expected flavors and colors, especially those of a watermelon.  Some summers though, you may be wondering what you can do with all of those bright green melons taking over the vines in your backyard garden. 

The best part about making watermelon candy, is that you'll have a healthy snack on hand that takes very little effort to make. 

 The small sugar baby watermelons are very sweet and make the perfect candidate for this dehydrating project, but any variety and size will do just fine.  

If you're using a "seedless" variety", there's no need to trim out the seeds. They'll be fine left in. 

Start by slicing your watermelon into chunks about 1/2 inch thick, and 2 inches long. 

Place them on your dehydrating trays, making sure they aren't touching one another. This will help them from sticking to each other during the dehydrating process and also allows them to dehydrate faster. 
Turn your dehydrator on, and let run for anywhere between 8-12 hours, depending on the type of dehydrator you're working with. 

Check every hour or two until the watermelon pieces look something like this.  They should almost resemble a thick "fruit leather".   Turn off your dehydrator, and let cool. Remove the pieces from the trays and store in an air-tight container with an oxygen absorber if you have them available. They will stay fresh for months, ...if they last that long! 

Want to make watermelon candy just like this? Find watermelon seeds HERE

Friends & Sugar Sand

Friendship can be funny sometimes.  Most of the time you can see it coming, and sometimes you can't.  I met someone a few months ago totally un-expected, who has literally changed my life.  
That, in and of itself is pretty remarkable.  Good, honest, and genuine people are hard to find these days, let alone being able to snag them as a friend along the way.  This person has taught me more than I ever thought I'd be able to learn, and has been someone that's inspired me to "be better".  I love people that do that! 

This friend of mine announced to me that they would be making a cross country trip and one of their stops would be in Pensacola, Florida.  The mere thought of them being on those white sugar sand beaches made my heart swell with envy and happiness for them all at the same time. 

Pensacola, or Perdido Key, is my most favorite place in the whole wide world! Memories come flooding back to me when I think of that place.   I learned a lot while I was there, lessons that can't be replaced.  

This place also is where my dad resides. Oh how I miss my father! Hopefully one day soon, we'll be able to be with him more full-time, but until then, I'll remember all the great times I've had there with him.  

So yesterday the post man delivered a box, and inside was a carefully wrapped sports drink bottle filled with the most beautiful sand I've ever seen. "Sugar Sand" from Pensacola! 

I knew right away what I'd be doing with this gift from the Gulf that had been sent to me! I grabbed one of my old, green, tall-neck bottles and began pouring the white sugar sand into it. 

The sand still consumed the warmth of the Florida sun, or maybe I was imagining it...but I couldn't help but tear up as I played with a bit of it in the palm of my hand. It felt like home....

So now I'll place this bottle of gifted sand, a reminiscent gift of the place I love the most, next to a photograph of my father that I have framed inside our home.  
Thank you friend, for thinking of me and making my day yesterday! 

Becca's First "Garden"

We made a trip to the garden center today to pick up a few things. It was time to "feed" all of our plants so we grabbed our favorite organic fertilizers and some extra compost.  I scored big on some "clearance" flowers and we snagged a few extra tomato cages. 

We FINALLY got a couple more whiskey barrels for the blueberry plants that Erick bought me for Mother's Day and got those planted up.  I can't believe it took us this long to get those in some dirt of their own. Sorry little blueberry plants! 

While we were wandering the garden center Becca expressed that she wanted to grow her own garden this year. She thought it would be "no big deal"  for Erick to dig up the lawn and build her a raised bed. One that she described as needing to be about 6 feet long by 4 feet wide. Erick and I looked at her exhaustively and said "really?" Not wanting to discourage her, we quickly started tossing around other "options" for her to start her own garden. Let's face it, nobody wants to build a raised bed in the middle of July. That's stuff you do when the weather is still brisk and cool out. Not to mention, we're running out of space in the lower gardens.  

The solution came to us! We remembered how we had been admiring the "fairy gardens" at Molbak's a few trips back and knew right away that this would be the perfect time to introduce Becca to the world of "fairy gardening"!  We encouraged her to pick out a pot, any color, any size she wanted and we would start building her own small garden. She got completely on-board once we took her to Rodgers Country Nursery to browse the merchandise for "fairy gardens" .

We gave her a budget, and she picked out her flowers, a pot and all the items she would need to start her very own garden.  She picked the "beach-theme", without any assistence from me, might I add. Must be in her blood, the sand, the sun and the sea.  Too much like her momma. 

We stopped at the beach on the way home so she could get some sand and new shells for her garden. When we got home she filled her container with potting soil and washed the sand and shells really good before she put them into the container with her plants and flowers. 

She designed the cutest "Beach Fairy Garden"! It's our new favorite thing in the backyard!

You just can't help but smile when you walk by her tiny new garden...

She's already talking about how she wants to do another one. This time a "farm inspired" garden. She's already plotting and designing it. Today she asked me what kind of vegetables would grow and look the best in one. 

Great job Becca! I love that she has been inspired to get her hands dirty and be creative in the gardening department. This sweet gal of mine continues to make me so proud of her! 

Well, that was onto "less than glorious" chores in the garden. Erick and I are getting ready to start seeds and get things planted up for our Fall and Winter gardens. Time to get that DE out and mixed into the soil where our root crops will be growing!  We ordered more seeds, and those should be here any day! The planting never stops! 

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