Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Lauren: Squashpuppies: A Yellow Squash Recipe June 23, 2014

Filed under: Food & Cooking,Gardens & Compost,Real Food,Vegetarian Dinner,Veggies — lkcook20 @ 6:23 pm

I have to admit that I don’t love yellow squash. It’s okay, but it doesn’t come close to how I feel about asparagus or beets.

But I love this yellow squashpuppies recipe, probably because it isn’t super healthy and you can’t really taste the yellow squash. Ha ha. Oh well. It’s super delicious!


4 cups of oil (I used olive oil)

3-4 yellow squash, sliced (You’ll end up using 2 c. the squash puree)

2 eggs beaten

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour or 1 3/4 c. cup freshly-milled flour

1/3 c. cornmeal

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/3 tbsp. oil

2 tsp minced onion

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 c. cheese



1. Heat oil to 375 degrees in a small pot. (It takes a little longer to cook all of the squashpuppies in a small pot, but you can use less oil.)

2. Place squash in saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer ten minutes, or until tender. Drain and puree. Let cool.

3. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, oil, onion, garlic powder, and cheese. In a medium bowl, mix 2 c. of squash puree with the eggs. Add the dry mixture into the wet.

4. Drop by rounded spoonfuls into the hot oil. (It’s okay if the batter is a little on the runny side.) Cook until they are brown and crisp on one side. It should only take a couple minutes, then flip. Once they are brown and crisp on both sides, remove, and drain on paper towels.





Lauren: Vertical Gardening: A Pea Trellis April 24, 2014

Filed under: Gardens & Compost — lkcook20 @ 5:43 pm
Tags: ,

I’m really excited about our new pea trellis!



It’s great because we used the tiny space next to our driveway, we’re sheltering the house from the hot summer sun (maybe we’ll plant peas all the way around our house and lower our air conditioning bill!), and we didn’t use up any of our precious backyard garden space.




Dave took some scrap wood and nailed it together to form a raised bed. Then he nailed three other pieces together for the sides and top of the trellis. We wrapped wire around the top bar and through poultry staples nailed in the bottom piece of wood, so the peas will have something to climb. I was the master painter.

The seed looked like a dried, shriveled-up pea when I planted it. And now it looks like this:

happypeaplantHappy pea plant.



T2T: Garbage Disposal Cleaner

I’ve used three lemons in the past week–one for a pasta sauce, one for salad dressing, one on salmon.  Usually I compost the lemon peels, but my garbage disposal was starting to smell, which gives the dishwasher a weird, musty smell as well.  So…the latest T2T (Trash 2 Treasure) is an easy, biodegradable garbage disposal cleaner: tear the lemon peel into a few chunks, cram it down the disposal, run for 30 seconds or so with some cold water flowing, and voila!  Instant freshness (and no worry about contaminating a water source with bleach).

I have tried to drop half a lemon peel in the disposal before, but my disposal didn't like it.  It seems much happier with a few bite-sized pieces.

I have tried to drop half a lemon peel in the disposal before, but my disposal didn’t like it. It seems much happier with a few bite-sized pieces.

I have heard that you can sharpen your garbage disposal blades by putting ice down the disposal, but we honestly don’t use our disposal for much food anyway since we compost–it’s really just the little bits and pieces that get washed down off the plates.


Lauren: Dumpster Diving (Again) April 14, 2014

We were dropping off some trash when I saw it–an enormous rosemary bush. We’re talking huge. I had to have it!

I admit that there is already a rosemary plant in my yard, but you can’t call it a bush because it only has a couple sprigs on it. This perfectly good plant in the dumpster would save me years of growing! Somebody’s trash was my treasure.

We were on our way to a party, so we had to come back and get it. And I made sure that we did.

I don’t have any action shots because it took both of us–one to hold it and the other to get showered with dirt, I mean, cut through the humongous root ball.



You would think he would look a little more thrilled, wouldn’t you?


Here is our new plant in the trunk:



And here’s the rest of it we left in the dumpster:


photo (1)


I saw some other good stuff in there, too: a metal shelf, a ladder. . . but Dave said we didn’t need any of that, even if it was free. I tried to get him to go to some other dumpsters for our date night, but he wasn’t having it. I think he just didn’t want any more little scrapes on his hands and arms.

And we planted it. I hope it survives.


How awesome is that?

I think I’m addicted. I wonder what other treasures the dumpsters are holding for me.


Lauren: 10 Easy Steps to Starting Seeds Indoors March 21, 2014

Filed under: Gardens & Compost — lkcook20 @ 8:08 pm

Spring is here! According to the calendar anyway. . .

It’s time to plant some seeds!


Here are some easy steps to start seeds indoors:

1. Figure out when to sow your seeds.

Visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac website. You can enter your zip code and the site will tell you the best range of days to plant your seeds indoors and outdoors, as well as when to transplant seedlings outside. (The sowing seed page is different from the transplant page.) The specificity of the website is great. I didn’t have to keep asking my friends who garden, “Have you planted your seeds yet? Have you planted your seeds yet?” said to sow my tomato seeds indoors March 1-8, so I did. I wish more things in my life were that easy.

(F.Y.I. Just because it says moon-favorable dates, doesn’t mean you have to go outside in your pj’s and slippers to plant your green peppers! You can plant them in the daytime.)

2. Buy your seeds.


I recommend buying your seeds from a local reputable distributor instead of box stores to ensure that you get non-GMO seeds and ones that are recommended specifically for your location. (This probably means you will buy them online.) I bought mine from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

3. Buy good quality seedling mix and save the potting mix for later. The bags specifically intended for sowing seeds are made of vermiculite and peat, which provide the optimal growing conditions for the seeds to germinate.

4. Buy and clean/sterilize the pots or seed trays.

5. Water the seedling mix before adding the seed. Plant the seed according to the package directions.

6. Cover seed pots with a Ziploc bag to keep in warmth. Once the seed sprouts, remove the bag.

7. Place the seed containers on a tray or plate. I have found that watering from the bottom works really well. The plants soak up the water that they need and you don’t have to worry about over-watering or under-watering.

8. The seedlings like temperatures in the 65-75 degree range and 12-16 hours of light a day. If you can, place them in a warm place with as much light as possible. If you don’t have an artificial florescent light and you’re relying on  sunlight, make sure you turn the seedlings periodically so they don’t grow all wonky.

9. After the seedling grows its true leaves, you can transplant to a bigger container with some potting mix. Hold it by the rootball/dirt, never by the stem! A plastic spoon works great for lifting the seedling out without damaging it.

10. Fertilize with diluted fertilizer (1/4 the normal strength) when the seed germinates and then every 1-2 weeks after that.

I don’t know about you, but I am already anticipating some juicy homegrown tomatoes!


Lauren: Dumpster Diving February 12, 2014

I went dumpster diving today. And no, it was not really by choice.

It’s all because we cancelled our trash service. Between recycling, composting, and now, chickens, we don’t create very much trash, maybe a grocery bag a week. So it seemed ridiculous to pay $30 a month for the garbageman (or is sanitation engineer the politically correct term?) to come twice a week. Now we bring that one trash bag a week to the gas station when we fill up with gas, or we’ll go to the dump, or today I used the dumpster behind the butcher shop.

I threw my bag or two of trash into the dumpster . . . as well as my keys. And, of course they sunk to the bottom. I can’t believe this is really happening, I kept mumbling to myself. I’m sure I looked like a homeless person except for my clothes and my kids in the nearby car with huge smiles plastered across their faces. There’s not much cooler to E. than Mom climbing into the dumpster. It’s almost as fun as watching thirty minute YouTube videos of real garbage trucks going about their routes. Almost. I kept hoping I could just reach down and grab the keys, but no. I had to climb all. the. way. in.

I started to imagine what I would have to do if I couldn’t find them. The best I could come up with was going into the butcher shop and, after buying my ground beef and milk, ask them if anyone could help me find my keys. In the dumpster.

Once I got in and moved some bags and boxes, I saw them on the very bottom. Victory was mine. . .  in a loser-who-drops-their-keys-into-the-dumpster kind of way.

I am now seriously regretting not picking up the perfectly fine looking tomatoes I saw in there. Who knows? This might be a new thing.


Sarah: Jammin’ with You October 9, 2013

Little Bear helps with apple selection.

Little Bear helps with apple selection.  This blog is really just a great excuse to post adorable photos of my daughter.

The neighbor’s tree reaches over the fence and drops lovely apples into our yard.  Envisioning apple pies and applesauce, I picked all the ones I could reach.  Then I went next door to ask, “Can I pick your apples?  They’re all going to waste!”  The college boys who rent there graciously told me to just come through their gate anytime.

Little Bear and I went in search of apples.  She took care of sampling–one bite out of four or five different apples.  I started picking from the tree…and found a grape trellis nearby.



These grapes were incredible.  They actually tasted like grape jelly.  Unfortunately, they also had seeds.  Little Bear didn’t mind.  She just swallowed the seeds along with the grapes (she’ll probably have a grape vine growing in her stomach next summer). However, I always worry about smiling at people with seeds stuck in my teeth, so I figured a different route was required.

I  called my preserving partner (see my previous post on why I can with friends) and told her we were making a first foray into the world of jam.

The ground under the trellis was a grape graveyard...a grapeyard?  I couldn't let the rest go to waste!

The ground under the trellis was a grape graveyard…a grapeyard? I couldn’t let the rest go to waste!

We tried to follow three recipes at once, which was a bit confusing, but that’s what happens when neither person has jammed before and no one is sure whether the final product should be jam or jelly.  We called the result “jamelly.”  It’s somewhere in between the two, but it tastes delicious, so I’m satisfied.  We ultimately found this website’s directions the most useful, but I’ll write my own directions for the process at the end of this post in case you’re interested.

The end result netted us about 24 8 oz. jars from 3 batches of jamming and 2 rounds of grape-picking.

Finished jars cooling down.

Finished jars cooling down.

My preserving partner and I agreed that we should give a jar to the boys next door to thank them for the use of their produce.  I knocked on their door last night and handed them the jar.  “Here’s some jam we made from your grapes,” I said.  The two looked at each other.  “Wow.  We have grapes?” they asked.

I guess this is further proof that Suburban Pioneering may be out of step with modern America.

Jamelly Process (I hope you like jammin’, too…)

Ingredients: 1 box powdered pectin mixed with 1/4 c. sugar, 6 and 3/4 c. sugar, lots of grapes OR grape juice (Apparently you can make the recipe with bottled grape juice.  Whoa.  Just do Step 1 and then skip down to Step 4…even if you don’t have college renters next door, you, too, can enjoy homemade jelly)

Step 1: sterilize jars and bands in the dishwasher.  Put a pan of water on the stove, over low heat, and place your unused lids in to heat/sterilize.  Meanwhile, get the water heating in your canner (or in a large pot).  You’ll need it boiling by Step 8, and in our experience, it takes a loooong time to boil.

Step 2: while dishwasher runs, wash grapes, remove from stems, and put in a pot with a little water.  Boil them.  Then run them through the food mill to separate seeds.  You want to end up with about 5 cups of fruit/juice mixture.

–Note: We tried about three different methods for this and all of them worked.  We tried food milling the grapes first and then boiling them.  We tried boiling and then food milling.  And we tried boiling and then straining.  Do whatever floats your boat.

Use a food mill to separate seeds from cooked fruit.

Use a food mill to separate seeds from cooked fruit.

Step 3: If you want more of a jelly than a jam, let the fruit drip through cheese cloth for several hours (we tried both ways…personally, I don’t care if my jelly is translucent.  I kind of prefer it chunkier, and it’s faster, so you can omit this step if you’re aiming more for the jam end of jamelly).  Whether you use strained juice or the juice/fruit mixture, you still want to end up with about 5 cups of it.

Strain through a cheese cloth for a truer jelly.

Strain through a cheese cloth for a truer jelly.

Step 4: For one batch of jamelly, put fruit/juice in the pot on the stove and heat to a full boil.  Once it’s boiling, add one box of pectin (mixed together with about a 1/4 c. sugar…the website we used recommended this, and I think it’s to help prevent the powdered pectin from clumping when you stir it in…it seemed to work well, and our jamelly jelled, so I figured it was a good tip).

photo copy 3

I know, I know. You can use the low-sugar pectin and make it healthier. But why deny yourself the sugar rush?

Step 5: Return the mixture to a boil and then add 6 and 3/4 c. sugar (these ratios are determined by the type of pectin you use.  If you just use the regular Sure-Jell powdered pectin, that’s the amount of sugar and fruit/juice prescribed on the box).

Step 6: Stirring frequently, return the sugar/pectin/fruit/juice jamelly mixture to a boil and boil thoroughly for one minute.

–Note: the website I mentioned above has a great test for making sure that your jamelly is jelled enough…anything that keeps me from ruining an entire batch of jam and wasting a lot of time is good; I don’t want to end with runny jelly!  That website suggests pouring a little bit of your boiling water on a cold spoon (you can keep in freezer or in ice water until you’re ready to use it).  Let the mixture cool on the spoon.  If it’s not thick enough, just add a bit more pectin from another box.

Step 7: Remove jars and bands from dishwasher.  Pour the hot jamelly mixture into jam jars, leaving 1/4 in. room at the top.  Wipe the rims, put the hot lids on, and screw the bands on (not too tight…you don’t want to interfere with the lids “popping” to vacuum seal).  If you have extra jamelly mixture in the pot that won’t fill a whole jar, you can just put it in a glass container for your fridge and eat it first (or just consume it all right there on the spot, which is what we did).

Step 8: Place jars in the boiling water in the canner or large water pot.  If you live in Colorado, boil for 10 minutes.  Anywhere else (that’s not at altitude), your jamelly process will be 5 minutes instead.

Step 9: Remove jars from canner; listen for pop that indicates seal (you can check them later after they’ve cooled to make sure that the little button area on the top is depressed).

Yum, yum.

Yum, yum.

Step 10: EAT JAM.  Grapes are good for you.  Sugar is, too, right?  Right?


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