It happens every year. After a slow start, one that makes me wonder if anything will ever happen at all, in comes the rain and my garden turns from meager to magical overnight. Bursting with zucchini, spinach, yellow squash, lettuce and every fresh herb I can think of, our late May bounty is incredible.
But who will eat it?
We have four small children, ranging from four to nine, and there was a time when I wondered if all this garden glory would go to waste. So, I started experimenting. Coming up with new recipes to get the flavors just right, accentuating (at best) or hiding (at worse), and here are our greatest hits, the ones our kids ask for again and again:
-Sweet Green Smoothies: Blend 1 cup of fresh spinach with 1 banana, 1 cup of frozen pineapple and 1 cup of coconut water. (Tip: If this is your first green smoothie, start with half a cup of frozen spinach and work your way up to more. And if it’s not a hit, freeze the whole batch in popsicle molds and serve them as a snack.)
-Summer Squash Taco Boats: Prepare your taco fillings as usual (a little meat, maybe some beans and all the chili powder your family likes) but skip the tortillas. Cut squash length-wise and use a melon baller to hollow out the shells. Place squash cut side down on a lined baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Flip, fill with cooked meat mixture, top with cheese and bake for another 15 minutes until squash is soft and cheese is melted. Top with fresh tomatoes and cilantro, serve with tortilla chips.
-Garden Fresh Quiche Cups: Beat 8 eggs with ½ cup of cream plus a pinch of salt and pepper. Line a muffin pan with wonton wraps, fill halfway with egg mixture and top with shredded spinach, fresh dill and sharp cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until set.
-Italian Zucchini Casserole: Combine 1 pound cooked sausage with 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce. Layer a 9x9 pan with cooked rice (2 cups total), sliced zucchini (2 medium), fresh basil, oregano and parsley, salt and pepper plus a blend of parmesan and mozzarella cheese (2 cups total). Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees, remove foil and bake for 15-20 minutes.
-Double Chocolate Fruit & Veggie Muffins: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 handful of fresh spinach, 1 sliced zucchini, 1 sliced and cored apple plus ½ cup of water. Cook for 4 minutes. Add 1 banana and puree. Combine puree with ¼ cup vegetable oil, 1 egg, ½ cup sugar, 2 cups flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, ½ cup cocoa powder, ½ cup mini chocolate chips. Stir, fill muffin cups and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
-Homemade Balsamic-Maple Vinaigrette: Whisk 1 minced garlic clove, ½ teaspoon salt, a few cracks of fresh pepper, 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and ½ cup extra virgin olive oil. Serve over fresh lettuce or kale, studded with fresh strawberries.
Charity Curley Mathews is the founder of Foodlets. com: Mini Foodies in the Making, where you’ll find more recipes like these plus information on the June 30th Farmhouse Cooking Workshop for adults featuring Jamie Dement, co-owner of Hillsborough’s Coon Rock Farm and author of “The Farmhouse Chef”. It’s an intimate “spa day” for food lovers with only a few seats left, so register now at Foodlets.com!