To prune or to be pruned. . .

For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms And the flower becomes a ripening grape, Then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives And remove and cut away the spreading branches.
Isaiah 18:5

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(pruning a few young shoots off the new apple trees / Julie Cook / 2015)

If the truth be told, I’m not a very good gardener.
Oh I love to dig, to pot, to re-pot, to plant, and on occasion, to weed.
But the pruning part, well, that’s another story entirely.

It’s like when we’ve planted our vegetable gardens over the past several years. . . the nice little seed packet of squash or zucchini directs one to put in 4 to 6 seeds in a little mound.
The directions further instruct the gardener that, as the tiny sprouts emerge,
one is to pull out all but 2.
Why not just plant 2 to begin with?? Why the sacrifice??
I know, I know. . .you’ve got to factor in the variables like some seeds not germinating, seeds being whisked off by opportunistic birds, or just plain ol bad seed.

Less is more, more often than not, when it comes to gardening.
If 5 squash seeds are allowed to sprout and grow, the plants will overcrowd one another as they vie for growing space. The blooms will be few. The plants will fight for nutrients, water, sun and the squash will be small, if the little plants “fruit” at all. . .
Still I just can’t bring myself to pluck away a seemingly healthy little seedling.

Same thing with my fruit trees and pecan trees.
A good looking branch to be, being cut away, will help with top growth, spreading of the canopy,
balancing the shape, ward off insect infestations, and aid in fruit production. . .
Sadly, for me, it’s just so terribly hard to look at a healthy young branch or a dependable old branch while holding a pair of pruning shears in one’s hand.
It’s as if I want to tell the tree, “it’s for your own good.” I want tell the little branch “you’ve got to take one for the team. . .” and of course, “I’m sorry” as I close my eyes preparing to cut or whack.

A good gardener knows that one has to sacrifice a little to in order get a lot. Again, “less is more” sort of thinking.

People who deal with wildlife populations refer to it as culling. They have to “thin” the herds. It’s done for the wellbeing of the entire herd. Too large of a population is more prone to devastating disease as well as destructive in-breeding.
Just knowing I could never look a Caribou or a deer in the eye and say, well, “it’s just not your lucky day. . .”

And yet these sorts of decisions have to be made by farmers, ranchers, wildlife management specialists, biologists, agriculturalists all the time. Even Vets know when it’s time to “put down” a beloved pet whose time draws nigh for whatever reason—
However I’m not going there today—Not an option. . .

And so as I made my way to the apple trees, with shears in hand, I was poignantly reminded of the pruning that I, as a child of God who is the Master Creator, must constantly undergo–as in He is constantly having to prune me, we, us.

It’s hard and not always pleasant for either Pruner and prunee.
I would imagine He must not always be fond of having to pluck, cut, whittle, pull and even re-pot as He knows that such upkeep will not be easy on us. He does so, however, with a loving eye turned to the potential of what will be. He sees ahead and knows what must be removed in order for us to receive the abundant blessings of Life as we are to, in turn, pass blessings on to those we meet along our journey of growing.

He sees how we’ve grown leggy, how we’ve spread out too much, and how we’ve grown too dense and thick. We become non productive, root bound, we become diseased, we wither and fail to thrive. . .

We are often left feeling stunted, betrayed, lost, hurt, abandoned and alone.

Yet just as a gardener must prune his plants and trees in order to yield the proverbial bumper crop, so too must God, the Creator of the Universe, prune the children He loves.
He does so, as the wise gardener He is, out of a deep and tender abiding love for you, me, we. . .

Here’s to pruning, weeding, sorting as well as sprouting, thriving and growing. . .

Zut alors, zoodles!

Zucchinis terrific!
Like bunnies, prolific!

– Author Unknown

Last night we had three small zucchini for dinner that were grown within fifty feet of our back door. I estimate they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $371.49 each.
– Andy Rooney

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(the latest day’s gathering / Julie Cook / 2014)

Zut Alors!!
As in holy cow!!
As in, they just keep coming and coming. . .
And just when you thought you had had one zucchini boat too many,
one fried zucchini too many,
one helping of zucchini casserole way too many. . .

Enter the Zoodle.

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What? you exclaim, as in you think I’ve merely spelled something wrong?! And whereas I would agree with you on my lack of spelling, rest assured, you have read correctly.

Zoodle.

A zoodle is Mother Nature’s pasta. Yet in order to create this small wonder, it helps to have a little kitchen tool known as a Paderno Spiralizer. Or something similar.
Oooooo a spriralizer.
Sounds rather nice rolling off the ol tongue doesn’t it?

When I saw this little bad boy in my William Sonoma catalog (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/paderno-sprializer/?cm_src=AutoCatRel), I knew immediately I wanted to try my hand at that.

I love pasta.
I Adore pasta. . .as in I’ve got it so bad that I order all of my pasta from Italy.
Yes, I’ve got it that bad. A sad little addiction really—me and pasta. . .
It all goes back to the adoption and to my being Sophia Loren’s love child, but just don’t tell Ms Loren about that, she doesn’t know. It’s just our little secret. . .yours and mine.
And may I add just how stunning she’s looking as she’s knocking on the door of 80!

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We have good genes, she and I. . .but may I add that I tend to wear my dresses just a tad bit higher on the front, but I digress. . .back to the spiralizer.

A love of pasta is not exactly the best thing for one’s weight, health, IBS, gluten intolerance, diabetes, hyperglycemia, etc. . .not something you need to consume on a daily basis—and believe me, if I could, I certainly would.

With a plethora of zucchini from the garden, coupled by a need to mix things up a bit with the pasta consumption. . .enter the spiralizer.

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It comes with 3 types of blades but I prefer the one that spiralizers things–of course! It is simply too cool. Super easy to use and clean—it’s a no brainer.

At first I simply pan sautéed the zucchini spirals with a little olive oil and onions and served as a side dish accompanied by a healthy grating of parmesan cheese (the real deal mind you, none of that powdered mess in a jar). I had to break my husband in slowly and gently. He’s a plain food kind of guy. Nothing fancy smancy for him, which cuts way back on the fun in the kitchen to be sure.

As he liked his sautéed zoodles, I decided I could now go all the way with creativity and use my zoodles as a replacement for spaghetti. Daring and racy I know, but it’s good to mix things up every once in a while, trust me.

After zoodling the zucchini, I poured a little olive oil in a large skillet. Now I prefer to have mine slightly cooked but you may certainly prepare this using the zoodles raw–which may give new meaning to “al dente.” Once the oil sizzled, I dropped in my zoodles, stirring a bit, getting a nice overall sauté. Here, however is the tricky area. If you cook them too long, they extrude lots of liquid, turning mushy—something very undesirable when serving pasta—or in our case, fake pasta.

Once I sautéed the zucchini / zoodles, I emptied the zoodles into a colander, allowing for excess liquid to drain away.

May it be known that I make my own spaghetti sauce—but we’ll save that recipe for when the tomatoes all start to come in, for now we’ll just stick with the basics of the zoodles.

The sauce I’m using here is an Italian Sausage based sauce with veal meatballs. Of course you can go vegan all the way with the zoodles if you prefer, but as I’ve told you before–my husband’s palate is old school southern—a real meat and potato sort of guy—I’ve got to appease him to some degree. Meat sauce it is!

Using tongs I put the zoodles on a plate and grated a little parmesan cheese on top in order to coat the zoodles a bit, giving them a little umph and holding power for the sauce. I next ladled the sauce, placing a couple of meatballs on top and added a nice grating of Parmesan cheese as well as some crumbled feta and —Voila
Really nice, a bit more healthy, sneaking in another serving of vegetables, a win win to be sure.
Buon Appetito!!

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A redemptive faux pas kind of day

I have decided I must redeem some part of this day…first it was my husband walking in the house, in the wee hours this morning, having been to survey the rain saturated garden before leaving for work. In his hand he carried a green club. “Oh my gosh, how in the world?!” I had scoured those plants the day prior. It was a zucchini—a huge zucchini—like the zucchini that ate Manhattan kind of zucchini.

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He just shook his head. “I’m telling you I went over every inch of that garden, I have no idea where that one was hiding!!” He just shakes his head with that annoying little grin like “sure you did” kind of grin–which annoys the crap out of me…..”shirking on the job are we?”, he asks as he makes for his coffee and keys….ugghhh….

Of course he thinks it funny but I’m actually annoyed with myself. The excessive rains this summer are making for a poor poor crop—vegetables bursting before ripening due to all the water, plus you need a little sun to make things ripen and blooms to open before just rotting off the vine…so any little veggie I can pluck before it gets ruined is pretty precious. How I managed to let a zucchini get past me long enough to mature into a small mallet is beyond my soul.

I call them zucchini clubs and there is just one thing they are good for—not unless you have some cows who don’t mind being hand feed a nice tasty green club every once in a while…..our neighbor a couple of years ago kept some cows in the pasture behind our house. On the evenings I’d be out working in the garden, the cows would amble over to the fence and if I found the baseball bat zucchinis, especially if we’d been out of town for a few day with the garden getting ahead of us, I’d hold out the zucchini and they’d eat it all gone 🙂

A Chocolate Zucchini cake—that’s the answer!

Now that won’t fix my stupidity this morning for accidentally clicking the “like” button on my own post—who does that?? So Julie seems to like Julie’s post—hummmmm… No, not exactly but how do I take that back…one of those computer savvy questions no doubt. Then there was the conversation with Joanne who I referred to as Katherine—the name of her post….I know she is Joanne, and yet…my feeble brain jumps to the blog name instead—what’s up with that brain??

I blame it on the rain—I’ve had a sinus headache for the past two days—the kind that Motrin or Advil does not touch. So I wisely decided that before going to bed last night I would take half a pain pill (a whole one is just too potent) to make my head and sinuses stop hurting. Makes sense, right? These little goodies are left over from my husband’s oral surgery on a tooth…..
Maybe I was a little groggy this morning….

Anywhooooo, here is what I am offering in the way of redemption for all of you out there—those who think cookie suddenly got a little full of herself, for Joanne who thinks I’m turning into my dad, and to my husband who thinks I am no candidate for master gardener…….please find the recipe below…..

Chocolate-Zucchini Cake

2 eggs
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons Coca (Hersey’s special dark for a really rich chocolaty taste)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups flour
1 package of Instant vanilla pudding mix (I use the 3.4 oz. box)
2 cups finely grated zucchini (grate into a dishtowel and ring out the excess moisture)
1 cup mini chocolate chips (or whatever kind and type you have on hand, even white chocolate is nice)
Optional ½ to 1 cup nuts—I don’t do the nuts, as I’m not a fan of nuts in sweets….

Cream together the first 5 ingredients. Sift together the next 5 ingredients—then add to the creamed ingredients. Add pudding and zucchini, mixing well. Pour into a greased and floured (Baker’s Joy spray) 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle chips and nuts on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 325° for 40-45 minutes—until a toothpick come out clean.

Serves 14-16
Perfectly easy

here it is in the pan before heading into the oven
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and here it is…missing a piece…how did that happen 😉

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Please make this and enjoy my faux pas apology!!! Add a little ice cream if you think I’ve been really stupid 🙂