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Cooking in the time of Coronavirus: Leftover veggies



Today I am in preservation mode. I have a bunch of fresh veggies in my refrigerator that need something done with them before they spoil. We’re well into our second week of isolation and yesterday the governor ordered our county to shelter in place for the next two weeks. Schools are closed until April 9th, and we doubt they will reopen that soon. Needless to say, we are in a holding position for another two weeks.


But life goes on and so do we. Produce doesn’t wait for man or epidemic, and so I pull out everything fresh out of the fridge and survey the damage. We have placed priority on cooking or preserving anything fresh that was purchased recently.


As of today, we have three cucumbers, spinach, arugula, carrots, sweet potatoes, baking potatoes, onion, two withered zucchinis, a few apples, some oranges and half a bag of mini peppers. Not a bad haul for not being off the property in over a week and a half.


The urgent items are the cucumbers and the zucchini. My plan is to use up the greens and then freeze whatever is left. Spinach can be blanched and frozen for use later, and the arugula will be put into a blender with some water, garlic, oil and nuts and made into pesto to be frozen as well.


The cucumbers are easy. One will be sliced thinly, salted and added to some sliced onion for a salad tonight. The other two are going to be the stars of the show - pickles.


We love pickles. We would eat pickles with everything if we could. I will be making a quick refrigerator pickle recipe that I have been making for years. I make these pickles all the time and they are super easy and incredible with just about anything. I will also do a red onion pickle to put on burgers or street tacos.

The keys to pickles are:

1. A clean environment - wash your containers, utensils, cutting board and knives in hot water and soap, then dry with an unused towel. You want a spotless environment to keep bacteria and yeasts from being introduced to your pickles.

2. Keep your pickles submerged at all times in the brine.

3. Time - you need at least 24 - 48 hours for your pickles to well…pickle.

Don’t let the super-clean thing freak you out. Just wash your stuff before you start, dry it thoroughly, and get to the pickle making!


Quick refrigerator pickles:

1 or 2 cucumbers, depending on size and size of container you’ll be using, or whatever vegetable you wish to pickle.

1 jar or glass container to hold your pickles, washed and sterilized

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup sherry or apple cider vinegars (to make them sweet without extra sugar)

3-4 Tablespoons sugar (use as much or as little as you want for your desired level of sweetness)

2 teaspoons of salt (again, to taste or type of salt)

Directions:

1. Wash and slice your vegetables. I like to make mine extra chunky for snacking, but you do you - if you like thinner pickles, go for it. The thicker they are, the longer you need to leave them in the brine is all.

2. Pack your veggies into your container, making sure to leave room at the top for enough brine to cover them.

3. To make brine: Place all ingredients into a non-reactive bowl, mix until sugar and salt are dissolved. Or, use my trick and get a second jar, put all the ingredients in and shake until everything is dissolved (you can see any undissolved crystals at the bottom this way)

4. Add brine mixture, making sure all veggies are covered with at least 1/2 inch of brine at the top.

5. Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours. The longer you let them brine, the more flavor they will have.

**The pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a week or more if you make sure to use a clean utensil each time you go “pickle fishing”.



And on to the zucchini. Since these are tender baby zucchini, I’m going to add them to my minestrone soup for dinner tonight and move on with life. The other option is to make zucchini muffins. You can also use this recipe to make carrot muffins, or combine the two for a veggie-packed powerhouse your kids might actually eat. This recipe can be made vegan by using the flax egg replacer method of 1 tablespoon flax seeds dissolved in 3 tablespoons of warm water for each egg. Allow mixture to sit for 15 minutes or until viscous like egg whites


Zucchini muffins:

2 cups zucchini, washed and grated (or grated carrots)

1.5 cups almond flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon (or more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 eggs (or use flax egg replacer to make it vegan)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to combine.

3. In a second bowl, whisk wet ingredients until combined. Add veggies and nuts. Stir.

4. Add wet ingredients to the dry slowly, stirring as you go.

5. Pour batter into lined cupcake tins. Allow to sit for 10 minutes

6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from center

7. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

8. Dust with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or make icing with recipe below.

Optional icing:

8 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add icing ingredients to mixer bowl. Whip until smooth. Frost cupcakes when completely cooled. Refrigerate frosted cupcakes.

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