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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Cheap & Cheerful Meals: Using as Much Garden Produce as We Can

Friday's pizza and movie night -- we watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of The Lost Ark


homemade sausage, mushroom and basil pizza
orange segments and fresh figs
garden green beans
cabbage and celery slaw
blackberry pie

I can't quite say that I "found" an orange in the spare fridge, as I've known it was there since late last winter. What I did find was the motivation to use the orange. I'd been hanging on to this last orange so I could make a batch of candied orange peel (how I make candied orange peel here). Friday afternoon, I peeled the orange for segments to go with fresh figs in our dinner, then sliced and candied all of the peel. I'd intended to chop and freeze the candied peel for baking with this winter, but we ate it all.

My cabbage has not grown to a good size at all this year. So, I've been plucking off the outer leaves from several heads to slice thin and make into slaw. We will still get some small heads of cabbage, but this way we will get more food from each head overall. The outer leaves tend to be tougher and less crunchy than the inner portion of cabbage. Because of this, I slice the leaves as thin as I can. 

I picked blackberries Friday afternoon for Saturday and Sunday's breakfasts.



refried beans (cooked from dried beans) and homemade salsa
sautéed kale
cucumber and tomato "salad" (cucumbers with a light dressing and tomato wedges)


kale and onion frittata
garden green beans
tomato wedges
mashed potatoes
blackberry pie

I picked blackberries again on Sunday for the family's breakfast the next day. At the same time, my daughters picked a large bucket of blackberries to make a pie for us. Our plan is to pick and use as many blackberries as we can for daily meals while they're still good. This will help us stretch out the other fresh fruit that we have coming in or already harvested and stored.


teriyaki chicken and garden vegetables, using leftover pickle juice in the marinade
leftover rice mixed with cooked broken noodles
garden salad, using leftover pickle juice in the dressing
fresh figs
blackberry pie

Tuesday -- I promise there's a hot dog under the relish and mustard in that bun.

Tuesday Cook-Out
hot dogs in homemade buns from freezer
kale, apple, celery, pecan, raisin salad in a rosemary-rhubarb dressing (rosemary-rhubarb preserves with mayonnaise)
grilled onions and squash (a winter squash that fell off the vine long before ripening, peeled/seeded, chopped)
blackberry-rhubarb jello 

The blackberry-rhubarb jello can be made with any fruit that will gel (these won't -- pineapple, figs, mango, kiwi, prickly pear), stewed, fresh, or frozen. Instructions for making gelatin with real fruit or fruit juice are in this link.  For this batch, I stewed rhubarb and blackberries together until the rhubarb was soft. I then sweetened and puréed the stewed fruit and mixed in the softened plain gelatin. On the plate for Tuesday, it's in squares. that's because I wanted the gelatin to set up quickly, so I poured the mixture into a shallow baking dish. It set up in about 3 1/2 hours.


blackberry cheesecake French toast with blackberry syrup
steamed green beans
tomato, cucumber, cheese salad (in mustard vinaigrette made by rinsing out a mustard jar with vinegar, adding garlic, additional vinegar, oil and salt)


homemade black-eyed pea, hot dog and vegetable soup
bruschetta toast, using garden tomatoes, garlic and basil, plus cheese on homemade bread
blackberry pie

Other meals

After I baked 3 loaves of toast and sandwich bread on Monday, I baked a batch of blackberry granola. To do this, I mashed a large handful of fresh blackberries and combined with sugar, salt, vegetable oil, and dry oats before baking in a slow oven. My daughter baked 2 blackberry pies this past week. We're trying to use all of those fresh blackberries before the season is over. 

Another breakfast item I baked this week was an apple snack cake. The squirrels had been up to their usual mischief in the apple trees and knocked 4 apples off. I picked those up, washed them, cut off the bruises, and chopped to add to an eggless, milk-less snack cake, roughly following the recipe in this link. I followed the one for the chocolate cake, omitting the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and vanilla. I added 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, then adding in the 4 chopped apples. It's delicious! I would normally bake an apple crisp to use for breakfasts, but my oat allergy is acting up and I wanted to have some of this.

I also finally got to making another batch of yogurt. I needed whole milk for this, so I had to wait until I went to Fred Meyer for the monthly grocery shopping. Breakfasts were some combination of granola, toast, apple snack cake, yogurt, apples, blackberries, orange juice, coffee, tea, milk, eggs, and peanut butter.

For lunches, I showed my daughter how to make sorrel and squash blossom soup one day. She also put together a couple of quick salads for us and we added tomatoes (most often as tomato sandwiches), apples, raisins, bread, cheese, peanut butter, eggs, hot dogs, rice and beans/lentils, lentil sprouts, and various leftovers.

We are still trying to live as much as possible on what we have at home and in the garden. I did go grocery shopping this week. I'll post on that later. But I will say I bought very, very little produce -- 3 bananas and a handful of jalapeños for making salsa. 

The garden is not exactly winding down, it's changing. The produce items that like the heat are winding down, but the cool weather vegetables and fruit are just getting started. The fall raspberries have just begun this week. I have a few plums, apples, crabapples, green figs (unripe figs), and pears to harvest at the end of the month or in very early October. In vegetables, we still have cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, turnips, beets, carrots, spinach, mâche, potatoes, onions, pumpkins, radish greens, celery, and Swiss chard for early to mid-fall meals. Oh my goodness. It's been a lot of hard work with this year's garden, as I've tried to grow as much of our food as I could. Some things didn't grow that well, while others surprised me with their bounty. But I kept working at it as best as I could. The bulk of my work in the garden will be behind me after the potatoes and carrots are harvested the first week of October and I finish making pickles, relishes, and salsa. As odd as it sounds, I'm a tiny bit glad this is an off year for plums. Harvesting, pitting, and drying all of those is a week's work in itself.

Anyways, these were our meals this past week. What were the highlights of your week? Have you made candied orange peel before? What did you think of it? Some folks don't care for it. My family seems to like it. Do you ever make jello with fruit or fruit juice and plain gelatin? Amy D. from Tightwad Gazette fame inspired me to make fruit jello with her description of making blackberry jello with puréed fresh blackberries. Her thinking on using fruit to make a jello dessert was that this would be a healthier way to use up blackberries compared to lots of pies or other baked desserts. My family ends up eating these fruit gelatins as servings of fruit with meals. One can only eat so many pies, right?

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


  1. I'm not keeping track, but it seems that you have a longer blackberry season there than we do here. We usually have about a month starting in mid July. And I don't think you can every have too much pie! :)

    1. Thinking the same. Maybe because of climate differences? Our blackberry season usually coincides with triple digit temperatures and is pretty short.

    2. Hi Live and Learn,
      The longer blackberry season is two-fold. 1) we start our picking in a public area that gets a lot of sun and the berries ripen beginning 2-3 weeks before the ones on our property, where it's cooler. 2) heat doesn't do our berries in, cold rain and mold end our harvest. And rain doesn't happen here until mid-September. We're expecting rain this weekend which will pretty much end the harvest. This will be the first significant rain since June for us. Everything that I didn't deliberately water is pretty much dried out.

      We're getting tired of blackberries, so I can't say I'll be sad when I can no longer go picking in the afternoons. (we're also tiring of pie -- go figure)

  2. You do such a good job at providing variety with your meals even while using what's in season!

    Highlight here--probably the shredded beef enchiladas with homemade red sauce (a Brian Lagerstrom recipe) served alongside Mexican street corn which was purchased frozen at Costco. I've learned whenever I see something from this brand (The Tattooed Chef) at Costco or Sam's, that my family will enjoy it as a different twist on whatever veggies are involved, and this was no exception.

    Tonight I plan to try a GF beef stroganoff recipe from a blog I read here and there. Looking forward to that as well.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Yum -- enchiladas. I haven't made those in a long while. Shredded beef or pulled chicken makes the best enchiladas.
      Mexican street corn -- I had to internet search that one. It looks like a tasty way to serve corn on the cob. I just searched for the Tattooed Chef version and it looks like it's cut off the cob. I do make a Mexi-corn side dish using corn, whatever Tex-Mex seasonings I have on hand with peppers, garlic, onion, and cheese. It's always enjoyed by my family.
      Stroganoff sounds like a delicious way to end the work/school week.

  3. Always such tasty meals, Lili. I wish blackberries were more readily available and cheaper. We love them but they are too expensive. We had chicken con pollo Sunday and leftovers Monday. We had tomato pie and chicken fajita casserole with leftovers the next day. Green bean casserole with sauteed pork strips with leftovers tonight. I made cheese broccoli soup for lunches and a big batch of taco soup that I delivered to my kids as a treat.

    I've been canning tomatoes, chicken and beef and freezing green peppers so I've had a busy week along with working FT. Today was cleaning the fridge and getting my few groceries which turned into more than I anticipated but that's ok. Mowed the lawn today and will pick apples tomorrow as well as laundry (which we do once per week).


    1. Hi Alice,
      How nice that you made a favorite soup for your kids and brought it to them. I bet they really appreciated your doing that.
      It sounds like you're a very busy person. Congratulations and getting so much accomplished! And your meals sound so tasty. How do you make tomato pie?

  4. My husband is talking about getting pears and apples this weekend, which would be a nice switch. We still have a few peaches left, but they are getting mealy.

    I've cooked big meals for leftovers on purpose this week. I made meatloaf/baked potatoes on Monday and my daughter, who loves meatloaf, has used the leftovers both for lunch as well as for her dinner last night. I made crockpot lasagna the next night (more leftover lunches) and on Wednesday I made taco chicken bowls. My husband and I had a church dinner/meeting last night (I took bread as my dish to pass) so it was handy for my daughter to eat leftovers for dinner, and tonight we ate the other half of the taco chicken meal (I worked and it's nice to come home to an easy dinner--my husband cooked rice and boom, we were ready to eat).

    Your apple snack cake sounds yummy. Fall recipes are starting to sound good to me. Looks like we will be having a cooler than average September, though.

    I rarely make jello, but yes, I've used fruit juice in place of the water, and have added fruit to make it into a salad. Jello isn't usually on my radar.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Good planning to cook extra on nights you were home to cook -- saves time while still enjoying home-cooked meals! And they all sound so delicious, too!
      I hope your husband got the apples and pears. Did he go to a market or an orchard? The way it sounded, I thought maybe you had a u-pick orchard nearby.

    2. Hi Lili--

      The orchard is about 45 minutes away from us. It's a family-run orchard and they supply a lot of their produce to Gerber for their baby food products (Gerber is a Michigan-based company, BTW). The man who runs the orchard said that a lot of orchards pick their apples before they are fully ripe because it's hard to get apple pickers, but he waits till they are ripe, which makes for a better product. It was a good opportunity for my daughter to get in some driving time on the highway at a quiet time of day, so win-win! And yes, we also have pears now, and are waiting for those to ripen.

  5. Yes, I have made candied citrus peel in the past (anything to stretch what was our meager budget at the time). It's been awhile though -- when the kids were home and growing up I would bake homemade granola on a regular basis, tossing in the candied orange peel (chopped) when I had it as a cheap add-in. Don't know that they necessarily loved it lol, but they ate it...!

    1. That's a great idea, to add chopped candied orange peel to homemade granola! Thanks for the suggestion, I'll give that a try this winter when we have oranges again.

  6. Hi Lili, what wonderful use of your garden produce so creative! I have a question our garden I have tons of turnip greens and need ideas for preserving and serving them. Any ideas? Thank you in advance for your inspiring insight. Gaila in the NW

    1. Hi Gaila,
      With the turnip greens, I chop finely, then sauté them with garlic and onions in bacon or ham fat, if I have it. Otherwise sautéed in oil also works. When I have chicken bouillon powder, I add a sprinkle of that as the greens are finishing sauté stage, then I add a tablespoon of water, cover and steam them remainder of the time. Adding a steaming helps soften the toughness. If I don't have bouillon powder, I add a bit of salt, the water and steam. For preserving the turnip greens or the turnip stems, I chop them finely and freeze, to use later added to broccoli or sautéed in oil or fat. The turnip stems, all chopped, help stretch purchased broccoli for us. My family also enjoys turnip greens and stems smothered in a cheese sauce over a baked potato. Hope these ideas help, Gaila!

  7. Great ideas Lili!! Thank you so much 😊 I have dehydrated the leaves and added them to my dried powdered greens but I had not actually prepared them on their own but once and they were tough so I hadn't prepared them like that again. Thank you again I so enjoy your blog ❤
    Love Gaila in the NW


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