Harvesting Our Bounty

It is hard to believe that Fall is at our doorstep already. My gosh, it was difficult enough posting my last update entitled “Summer’s Over” at a time when I began to enjoy the beautiful August, old fashion like “Dog Days of Summer.” Honestly. I am afraid to blink my eyes in fear that when I open them my favorite time of the year will be over and it will be time to don our snow boots.

This is my favorite time of the year, I always loved my early morning walks with my neighbor, but as I mentioned before she moved and I never could find anyone willing to get up early at 6 AM to go walking. Honestly, I miss it so much because it was such a great beginning to my day. Just breathing in the crisp morning air untouched yet by the daily contamination and I really do not think that an artist canvass could bring out the colors that an October rising sun departs in the sky and as it illuminates the breathtaking colors of the changing leaves.

I really didn’t do much Fall decorating this year, but here are some photos of my past endeavors to get you in the spirit of the season.

But at this moment I am excited about experimenting with recipes using all the wonderful produce from my garden as well as my son and both of my son-in-law’s gardens.

Pictured are some of the wonderful vegetables that I worked with for this update.

The tomatoes were the first to go and I was delighted with all the wonderful tasting dishes that I made and as most of us can attest too, nothing taste better than a garden tomato freshly picked from the vine. Not only is that tomato a wonder of nature with its beautiful shape and color and a taste that can satisfy your taste buds, it also mimics the contents of your medicine cabinet with the many medical and nutritional qualities that it has.

One medium tomato contains approximately 22 to 35 calories and is very low in sodium. That same tomato is a good source of Vitamin E, Thiamine, Niacin, Phosphorus and Copper and an excellent source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Potassium and Manganese and at least 2% each of Calcium and Iron. Also this vine grown miracle is a wonderful source of lycopene a powerful antioxidant and anticancer agent and although we have been told that eating food whole with less preparation is best, it seems that lycopene is more concentrated in cooked tomatoes.

Perhaps you are familiar with the antioxidant lycopene due to all the press attributed to the many studies that claim that lycopene is important for men to combat the risk of prostate cancer. But women take note, new studies have shown that lycopene is also important for bone health, especially for postmenopausal women.

Remember, I am just sharing my research with you and as always, I suggest that you do your own research and discuss your concerns with your doctor and/or your nutritionist.

CREATIVE CORNER-In the CREATIVE CORNER today is Tim and his wife Kelley from Upstate New York-I personally gave Tim the tag Farmer because of all the beautiful vegetables he and his wife grew in their garden. Like that old sitcom Green Acres starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor about a couple that move from the city to the country and unfortunately encounter all kinds of problems, they too were city people, but enjoy every minute of country life and when I asked him what their secret was for having such a successful garden, Tim answered “My neighbors healthy cows manure.” Now that is organic!

The Creative Corner is reserved for my readers who would like to spotlight a creative endeavor-does not have to be a food item, and many of the entrees appear on Google and Bing search engines. To submit a photo and information, as well as contact information if the item is for sale, send to my contact MAY@HealthyCookingForToday.com.

Having been given an abundance of tomatoes and wanting to use them while still fresh off the vine, I was able to experiment with many different means of cooking tomatoes and created some delicious recipes, as well as loading my freezer with containers of tomato sauce using a very simple process that took very little time to prepare.

I do not think that this simple recipe needs to be featured in my recipe section or can be because the section is programmed to list ingredients and amounts, so I am just going to list the steps used to prepare the sauce that I am calling Roasted Tomato Sauce.

Preheat oven to 400 or 425 degrees F.

Line a large cookie sheet with sides with aluminum foil.

1 - Wash tomatoes in a calendar with a spray of warm water. Shake colander to remove excess water and place tomatoes on paper towels and pat dry. Let tomatoes air dry while preparing other ingredients

2 - In a glass measuring cup add olive oil and whatever herbs and spices and any other ingredients that you use when making your favorite pasta sauce and mix to combine.

3 - Cut large tomatoes in quarters and small tomatoes in half and place on the foiled lined cookie sheet and pour the olive oil mixture to cover tomatoes. Toss gently to coat all sides of the tomatoes and place in oven and roast for 20 minutes or until tomatoes just begin to brown. Check often to assure that the tomatoes do not burn. Let the tomatoes cool.

4 - Puree the tomatoes-I use my Vitamix, which can best be describe as a blender on steroids. The Vitamix has a very powerful motor that pulverizes the peels and incorporates them into the sauce, I pour the sauce in a strainer to remove the seeds and any skin remnants. The same procedure would be used if using a blender, which would remove any skin as well as seeds. I then add some Romano or Parmesan cheese to taste.

5 - Your sauce is ready to use as is as a marinara sauce by heating in a saucepan on low or if you prefer a thicker sauce add a can of tomato paste and a tomato paste can of water. I suggest that you experiment with the recipe the first time until you are satisfied with the taste and consistency. Freeze in freezable containers for future use.

Another easy and delicious recipe for serving tomatoes for a cold healthy lunch or light dinner on a hot summer day is stuffed tomatoes. Actually this is one of my favorite go-to Summer recipes because it is simple to prepare.

Wash the tomatoes and gently dry with a paper towel. Cut the top of the tomatoes off and scoop out the pulp with a spoon so that the tomato resembles a small bowl. Place the tomatoes cut side down on a paper towel to drain while preparing the stuffing.

Now this is the time for you to be creative by using anyone of your favorite cold salads, such as tuna, shrimp, egg or a mixture of cottage cheese. You can go crazy with this stuffed tomato recipe.

My tuna salad with a diced homemade cucumber pickle, with a seasoned mixture of light mayonnaise and greek yogurt-your favorite seasoning- an a side of Multi Grain Tostitos with light shredded cheddar cheese, is such an easy and delicious lunch. Cucumber pickle recipe in the recipe section.

In the recipe section you will find more interesting recipes for eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers and peppers.

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It is always fun making stuffed peppers because there are so many different stuffings that you can make and believe it or not I have never made a stuffing that I didn't like. Using my ingredient amounts as a guide, experiment with your own signature recipes.

I have cooked Stuffed peppers many ways, but I always seem to go back to this crockpot method. Simply prep the peppers, which takes very little time, assemble any additional ingredients that you will be using and pop every thing that you will be using into a crockpot and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Very little clean up and you can have dinner on the table in a flash. Of course with the crockpot popularity there are so many new gadgets out there, such as the plastic crockpot liners and the beautiful state of the art whistle and bells crockpots with shut off-keep warm timers. You working cooks are ready to go.

Peppers are a good source of vitamin A, in the form of carotenoids, vitamin C and vitamin B6, Folate, dietary fiber and many other nutritional vitamins and minerals.

6 medium green, red or yellow peppers
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground turkey, beef or pork
1 cup brown rice, or white rice
1 small onion, grated or onion powder
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 cup ketcup
2 cups tomato sauce
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese
Wash peppers and slice off the top just below the stem and bottom. Remove the seeds and some pulp to form a smooth inside. Rinse and place cut side down on a few paper towels to drain while preparing fillings. Cook 1 cup of rice according to packaged directions and reserve. Add the oil to the skillet and heat on low. Add the ground turkey an cook until lightly brown. Dice the reserved pepper slices and dice or grate the onion and add to the turkey in the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat to cool.
Add remaining ingredients with the exception of the tomato sauce and cheese, to the turkey mixture and blend well. stuff the peppers with the mixture. Spread a small amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of the crockpot and place the peppers on top. Cook for 7-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.
Optional: The shredded cheese may be sprinkled on top approximately five minutes before finished. Remove lid, sprinkle cheese, cover. cook until cheese melts. Delicious, well mine was delicious at dinner tonight and all I had to do was remove it from the freezer, let it sit for a few minutes on my counter, then place it in the microwave to heat.

Every year there seems to me an abundance of zucchini in the garden, but this year was not the case, at least in my area. I was so bewildered that while shopping I asked the produce manager if the store was having a problem with their shipments of zucchini from local farm. He agreed that there was and what they were receiving were unusually small zucchini and he attributed it to the lack of rain this summer.

Last year I made so many zucchini dinners and desserts that we didn't want to look at another zucchini However I was able to conjure up a few to make some delicious stuffed zucchini recipes. 

The beauty of any stuffed vegetable recipe is that there are so many recipes and so many interchangeable ingredients that you can use. Example: In this recipe I use couscous instead of rice for the binder in the filling and chicken Italian sausage for the protein. But both the stuffed pepper and the stuffed zucchini recipe are interchangeable.

Zucchini is low in calories, high in inflammatory properties and has a very low score on the glycemic index. Thanks to the high percentage of water, zucchini is low in carbs and sugar, but is high in nutrients like potassium, magnesium and vitamin A and C.

2 medium zucchini, trim ends
2 links chicken Italian sausage, casings removed or pork Italian sausage
2 small garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 cup couscous, cooked
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 Tbls. Olive oil
2-3 cups tomato sauce
1/2 to 1 cup mossarella cheese, shredded
Follow directions on package of couscous for preparing one cup of cooked couscous. Wash and dry zucchini and cut off ends. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and with a spoon, scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp leaving a sturdy shell. Dice the pulp and reserve. Discard the seeds. Remove sausage from the casing and with a fork chop into smaller pieces. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the sausage until light brown. Stir in the reserved zucchini, garlic and salt and pepper to taste and cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Pour into a bowl and add the couscous blend. Add the onion powder and Parmesan cheese and blend well.
Lightly stuff the zucchini and place in a baking dish that has been sprayed very lightly with cooking spray and top with the tomato sauce. Bake until heated through approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and add shredded mozzarella cheese, place back into oven until cheese melts.

I always enjoy a beautiful salad for dinner once a week and it is a great way to incorporate a variety of vegetables into your diet and as the saying goes "Eat the rainbow" meaning enjoy all colors of vegetables.  Ironically, Mother Nature has colored coded vegetables and fruit according to there nutritional value.  Several years ago I shared a chart showing the traditional value of each color.  I will search my files to find it so that I can share it with you.

Today however I am focusing on cucumbers with this salad recipe, which includes that sweet Orlando eggplant that I write about in the preface to the Eggplant Rolletini recipe, as well as several other delightful ingredients.

There are several varieties of cucumbers, but the two most found in a home garden would be the dark green shinny and waxy skinned slicing cucumber and perhaps the Kirby pickling cucumber.But, I use what ever cucumbers are given to me for pickles and they always are great. 

Cucumbers are very low in calories, approximately 1/3 of a  medium cucumber would yield  only 15 calories, 3g of carbs, 1g of dietary fiber and protein and contains vitamin A, vitamin C and iron and calcium.

IMPORTANT NOTICE, PLEASE READ-Unfortunately when there is a long list of ingredients in a recipe, the ingredients are not listed as used, but are randomly spaced.  We are working to correct the problem, but in the meantime I will be listing the ingredients correctly in the directions.

4 cups greens
1 cup plum tomatoes
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small cucumber,peeled and chopped
4 pitted black olives. chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 can garbanzo beans
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 small cucumber, diced
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 garlic glove, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
For salad, In a large bowl mix the 4 cups of mixed greens, 1 cup plum tomatoes, sliced, 1 small red onion, chopped, 1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped, 1/2 cup feta cheese, cruimbled, 4 pitted black olives, chopped, 1 can of garbanzo beans, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently.
In a medium bowl blend 1 cup of sour cream, 1 cup of plain greek yogurt, 1 small cucumber, diced, 1/4 cup of feta cheese, 1 garlic glove, minced, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest and salt and pepper, to taste. Blend throughly and place in the refridgerator to chill. Wonderfiul served with any lamb dish and delicious as a vegetable dip.

I received some beautiful cucumbers from our gardens and I knew that I couldn't utilize all of them in my salads, so I decided to make my old fashion pickles.  I make refrigerator pickles, both dill and bread and butter pickles.  The pickles are so easy to make and to be honest, I never felt comfortable with the canning process. Making the brine only takes a few minutes and the pickles only take a few days to cure.

I am going to include both the dill and the bread and butter pickle recipes in this post. 

Fermented foods like pickles are very beneficial to your health because they contain  natural probiotics that support your immune system and are very helpful in controlling digestive problems.

4 pounds cucumbers
3 tablespoon dill seed
2 tabls pickling spices
1 large bay leaf
1 cup distilled white vinegar
8 cups water
1/4 cups salt
4 pounds cucumber
1 1/2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup course salt
3 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground celery seed
Dill Pickles-Wash cucumbers thoroughly and cut lengthwise into thick slices. Wash jar well and rinse, pour boiling water into jar and empty. Repeat process and let water cool, empty jar. Place dill seed, garlic, pickling spices and bay leaf in the bottom of the jar. Arrange washed sliced cucumbers in jar. In a nonreactive saucepan, heat vinegar, water, and course salt until mixture boils. Remove from heat and let mixture cool. Pour brine over cucumbers. cover with a lid and store in the refrigerator. Give them at least 3 days to cure. Adjust ingredients when increasing or decreasing the amount of cucumbers used.
Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles -wash cucumbers thoroughly and cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Place in a large bowl and add 1 1/2 pounds of onions and 1/2 cups salt : toss well to combine and add enough cold water to cover. Let stand covered for two hours. Transfer mixture to a colander to drain, discarding liquid and rinsing under running cold water, drain and set aside. Combine 3 cups vinegar, 2 cups sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed, 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric and 2 teaspoons ground celery seed in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add cucumbers and onion and return to a boil. Cook 1 minute and cool. Transfer mixture to sterilized jar, see above, and store covered in the refridgerator for up to 3 weeks. I doubt if they will last that long, because the pickles are so delicious.

Either you love eggplant or you hate it.  I just happen to be in the club that loves eggplant and serve it often.  Many know eggplant as a large purple plant, but the plant can also be white.  

Eggplant also comes in many shapes, round and plump, large and small long and short. Also new to me a small thin plant  that is sweeter from any other eggplant that I ever tasted.

Eggplant is a species of the nightshade family as are tomatoes, peppers and potatoes and contain the many nutrients as those vegetables do.  Eggplant is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and copper.  Also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, potassium. folate and Vitamin K. Nutritional profiles list over 80 nutrients .  Also eggplant is low on the Glycemic Index-the rate which sugar is released.

1 large eggplant , peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups Italian seasoning flavored bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese
1 eggwhite
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 Tbls. Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and spray a cookie sheet with sides with olive oil cooking spray or with olive oil applied with a paper towel. Wash eggplant and peel and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Set up a dipping station by placing 3 bowls on your workplace: bowl #1 flour, bowl #2 egg mixed with water and bowl #3 bread crumbs. Use one hand for dipping and using the clean hand to handle utensils, wipe up and yes, to answer the phone.
Bread slices of eggplant by dipping first in flour, second in egg mixture and third in bread crumbs. Place breaded eggplant on prepared cookie tray , place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until light brown. Do not over bake, eggplant slices should be pliable for rolling. Cool. Adjust oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Mix remaining ingredients with the exception of the tomato sauce and the Mozzarella cheese. Spread enough tomato sauce to cover bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread Ricotta cheese mixture on each eggplant slice and roll tightly. Place on top of tomato sauce in baking dish, seam side down. Spread remaining sauce on top and place in 350 Degrees F. oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese. Note: There may be a surplus or a shortage of ingredients depending on the quantity you are making.