Saturday, August 13, 2011

Food Preservation, Plus a Quick, Simple Meal- Pita Pizzas!

It's the height of fresh produce season, and if you are like many of us you may find yourself with more vegetables and fruits that you really know what to do with!

This has been the case for me lately.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought 25 lbs of fresh Georgia peaches because they were on sale and our family loves, loves , loves those yummy, juicy, fresh peaches! After I got home, I had a minor panic moment because I realized that I had no way to go about canning them, and knew for sure we couldn't eat them all before they went bad.

Enter: The Freezer.

I cut those babies and froze them up! I just sliced some and threw them in freezer bags, then diced some for topping our oats in the morning, and then made a few pints of freezer jam. I am so pleased to say that all of the peaches got taken care of, one way or another (we ate a bunch fresh too) and not one of them went bad. Score!!

I find myself in a similar slight panic today, because we unexpectedly received a bunch of veggies (hallelujah!! what a blessing! ) and I am trying to figure out what to do with them!
I thought I'd share a few tips on how to keep that bounty of goodness from going bad, so you can save some for those winter months when fresh veggies are scarce. ( Of course, you may eat them all before then!)

1.) Freeze it!

This doesn't apply to everything, of course; but there are many fruits and veggies you can simply chop up and throw in the freezer.
Here are a few:
Apples (squeeze lemon juice on them to keep from going  brown)
Bananas (these make a great alternative to ice cream! Simply cut frozen fruit and serve, or puree. Its super creamy and delicious!)
Basil (chop it in a food processor with olive oil, making almost a pesto then store in baggies or ice cubes)
Zucchini (shredded or cut up for soups, etc.)
Green Beans
Cooked Black Beans, or any other dry bean that has been cooked

Maybe I should just tell you what can't be frozen; that list is significantly shorter.

~Watery vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, celery. When they are thawed they just turn into a mushy mess.
~Whole or diced tomatoes, (for the above reason as well)  but you can freeze homemade tomato sauce
 just fine!
I can't think of any more off the top of my head. If you have more ideas, please leave them in the comment  box!

Another method that you can use to keep food is Food Dehydration.

This is one that I'd like to learn more about and try for myself.
I tried dehydrating some peaches just by setting some out in the sun on some foil, covered up with a sheer cloth so the flies wouldn't get them. It worked, it just took 2 days of 100+ degree heat. For the sake of time, I  don't think I'll do it that way again! You can get an electric food dehydrator for a reasonable price, or use your oven, or build your own solar dehydrator that works better than mine did!

Mother Earth News has a great article on how to preserve food this way, so head over there if you want to learn more about it.

Of course, you can always Can your food as well.

This is another I'm still waiting on doing, mostly because I have very limited storage space.
There are certain things that shouldn't be canned, such as herbs, and your own tomato sauce. This is because of acidity levels, and the risk of botulism.
You can find what you can and can't can here, along with a wealth of other information from Ball.

There are just a few ways to keep your food from going bad. Do you have another method that you love to use? I'd love to hear about it!

Now, one way to use up food is to eat it in ways you might not normally think of, which is what I did today for lunch. I made pita pizzas for me and the kids; which isn't out of the ordinary. But I did try a new ingredient that I really liked, so I'm sharing it with you!

Garden Pita Pizzas
makes 2 pita sized pizzas, about 8-10 small slices. 

2 pieces pita bread
olive oil
1 med. tomato, either diced or thinly sliced
1/4 onion, slices thinly
1 small yellow squash (that's the new ingredient!), thinly sliced into rounds
Monterey Jack or Mozzerella cheese, shredded
Shredded Parmesan cheese
8-10 fresh basil leaves

Place pitas on pizza pan, drizzle with olive oil and spread around til top is coated nicely.
Arrange squash, tomatoes, onion and basil on pita. Sprinkle cheeses on top, using as much or as little as you like. I like to just cover the veggies a little so the cheese acts as a "glue", holding everything together but so the veggies still can get a little browned as they bake. 
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 min, until pita edges are golden and cheese is melty. 

Here is what it looks like before:  

And after:

Yum! That is a small bite out of the second piece- we gobbled it right up! The squash and onions added a wonderful sweetness to the pizza- it tasted so yummy and kind of fancy, like a pizza you'd get somewhere at
 a  restaurant in California. (Not sure why I thought this, I've never been to a fancy restaurant in Cali, but I know they love their veggies there!)
If you try it, let me know how yours turned out!
Now, get to preserving all of that food you have, so you don't have to be shamed on Food Waste Friday!!

All images via Pinterest except for the pizza ones- those are my own, taken with my little point and shoot camera. Someday I'll have a big, fancy one like the "real" bloggers..;)


Anonymous said...

I loved this! I might refer back to this blog later on. :) Lets hang out soon and make pita pizzas. :)

Becca Swan said...

My dear friend and my Grandmother pointed out a very important step to freezing veggies that I overlooked. You must blanch them first, or you could get sick! Blanching kills any bacteria that may have been on them, and keeps it from going into your tummy.
To blanch, simply cut up the veggies ( if you want) and then dump them into a pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes. Then IMMEDIATELY afterwards, douse them in cold, cold water to stop the cooking process. Then, freeze.
Thanks, Grandma and Laura, for reminding me of this important step!! xx