It’s that time of year again, and I am excited! My hard work is beginning to pay off; my garden is starting to yield fresh produce. I have enjoyed sugar snap peas for a couple of weeks. A few yellow cherry tomatoes have ripened; they don’t last very long after I rinse them off. It is too hard to resist a fresh-off-the-vine bite of golden goodness. I picked some green beans on Saturday, enough to share with a friend at church. Now my yellow squash and zucchini are providing their bounty as well. It shouldn’t be long before I have cucumbers, especially if we get some rain.
There is something about a garden that calls my name a lot, and I find myself going out to check on it multiple times a day. I actually have two vegetable gardens; the back one has potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, pumpkins, and cantaloupe, plus a couple more yellow squash plants that were put in later (I love yellow squash). Besides the plants mentioned above, the one closer to the house has three varieties of peppers, several types of tomatoes, lima beans, and more sweet potatoes. Keeping weeds at bay is a constant effort, and I do much better with the patch not far from my back door.
From the time I put seeds in the ground in the spring, I anticipate what is to come. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever for the plants to sprout. Some of my potatoes took well over a month to finally grow, and I was ready to dig them up and start over. However, when I started to do just that, I found that there was progress underground that I couldn’t see. I covered them back up with dirt, and before long, they popped their leafy stems out of their soil cocoon.
I have been writing devotions on and off for years, so it should come as no surprise to my readers that my garden has been a great source of inspiration. It still is. As I typed the above paragraphs, I couldn’t help but think of how life is like my garden. Seeds are planted; some grow, and some do not. Some may start to grow, but for various reasons, they wither and die. There are seeds that pop right up and begin to flourish, while others in the same row don’t start their journey to planthood until much later.
For me, writing was that type of seed. It lay dormant for a long time. When it finally sprouted, it began to flourish and grow. As I shared devotions I had written, people started to ask for more. Then came the chance to write for the newspaper, and I took it. How could I not when it combined two of my favorite things to do: cooking and writing?
All that produce from my garden means more time in my kitchen. A couple of weeks ago, I tried a new yellow squash recipe that turned out to be scrumptious. Besides the squash, the ingredient list includes green peppers, which I grow in my garden, too. I had to purchase the squash at the time, but the peppers I used came out of my freezer from last year’s crop.
Accordion Potatoes turned out as well as the Stuffed Yellow Squash. I heated leftovers in the microwave, as the recipe made way too much for one meal. Spinach Pasta Salad is a recipe given to me by a friend. I will admit that I never prepared it myself, but when I tasted hers, I definitely wanted to know how to make it.
4 yellow squash
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 carrots, shredded (1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Cook squash and 1/2 teaspoon salt in boiling water to cover in a 2-quart saucepan 10 minutes. Drain and cool.
Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, and reserve, leaving 1/4-inch-thick shells.
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat; add carrot, bell pepper, and onion, and sauté until crisp-tender. Add garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, pepper, and soy sauce; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Stir in reserved pulp. Spoon into shells, and place in a 13- x 9-inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Serves 4.
6 medium baking potatoes
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, cutting to, but not through, other side. Carefully bend potatoes to separate slices. Place in a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
Drizzle potatoes evenly with butter; sprinkle with salt, parsley, and rosemary.
Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until done. Sprinkle with cheeses; bake 5 to 10 minutes more or until cheese melts. Yield: 6 servings.
Spinach Pasta Salad
4 cups torn fresh spinach
4 cups cooked spiral pasta
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1-1/2 cups sliced celery
2 cups green grapes, halved (may use red)
1 cup fresh snow peas
1 medium tomato, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped onion
In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients; pour over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Yield: 12-16 servings.
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