Part 5: All the Best Recipes for Cooking with our Summer Gardens

Part 5: All the Best Recipes for Cooking with our Summer Gardens

"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died." - Erma Bombeck

First, we taught you how to create a Sustainable Garden using fresh and summer-lovin’ fruits and vegetables. Then, we learned how to save water and improve our gardening skills. Now, we'll share our favorite recipes for cooking straight from the garden, like Salted Caramel Strawberries and Basil Mojitos!

                                 For help harvesting the sunflower seeds, see the bottom of this page.

                                 For help harvesting the sunflower seeds, see the bottom of this page.

Banana Sunflower Cookies

Sunflower seeds are a simple and healthy addition to many foods, especially salads and sandwiches. Because they contain all the standard nutrition of the nut family, while being compatible with sweet, salty, or sour flavors, they are particularly easy to bake with!

Here’s how to make Banana Sunflower Cookies, a quick and tasty treat for the whole family.

3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Thoroughly mix the bananas, oil, and sugar together in one bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the dry ingredients (except the flour!). Once each bowl has been thoroughly blended, add the flour into the banana mixture. After that is blended, combine both bowls and mix well. Some recipes also add 1 cup of chocolate chips for extra flavor.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Place spoonfuls of batter on a cookie sheet  about two inches apart and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. This recipe makes about 24 cookies.

(Bonus: For a masterlist of all things sunflower, take a look at what the National Sunflower Association has to say about baking with sunflowers!)

Raspberry Basil Mojitos

There's something about going out into the yard and gathering your own food that makes cooking so much more exciting. Then we found this recipe for mojitos, and things got even more fun.

First, you make the Raspberry Basil syrup.

1 cup sugar 
1 cup water
5-10 raspberries 
3-6 basil leaves

Mix the above ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer. Keep it simmering until all the sugar dissolves, and crush the raspberries and basil leaves with a spoon to release the flavor. After the sugar has dissolved, leave the mixture to cool, then pour it into a container and strain the berries and leaves out.

2 ounces white rum
1 ounce Raspberry Basil syrup
juice of one lime
5 fresh mint leaves, chopped
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
fresh raspberries 
club soda 

Combine all of the ingredients over ice and top it off with club soda. Enjoy!

Strawberry Lemonade Muffins

These genius-ly delicious muffins are great for any time of day. Breakfast, lunch, snacktime, there's-extra-muffins, appetizer time, they'll-go-bad-if-we-don't-eat-them, you get the idea.

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups diced fresh strawberries

Combine the flour and sugar into a bowl and mix, leaving a hole in the center. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients (except the strawberries!). Once it's blended, add this mixture to the flour bowl and slowly stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the strawberries gently and avoid crushing them.

Scoop spoonfuls into a muffin tray - filling about 3/4 full - and then sprinkle sugar on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-18 minutes (or until golden brown).  Let cool and enjoy all day!

Nectarine Pizza with Basil and Reduced Balsamic 

Do not expect to share this pizza. Seriously. I mean technically it has enough healthy stuff on it, it's basically a salad, right? So it's okay to eat the whole thing in one sitting?

~Toppings~
olive oil for greasing
cheese(s): fresh ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese, and/or mascarpone
1 nectarine (or peach), sliced thinly
shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese
fresh basil leaves

~Reduced Balsamic~
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

~Dough~
¼ cup whole wheat flour
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
2 teaspoons olive oil

Note: This recipe is a tad bit lengthy

1. Mix the flours and salt in a bowl (Note: some people have attempted to use a Kitchen Aid with this dough, but that usually ends in the machine shaking and smoking and everyone asking if you've ever actually cooked before).

2. In a small cup or coffee mug, mix the water, sugar, and yeast and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Once it begins to bubble, stir in the olive oil. Next, slowly stir the water mixture into the flour mixture and continue stirring until the dough is firm and smooth. This may take awhile.

3. Pull the dough apart into 4 sections. Put two onto a cookie sheet (with parchment paper on it) and lightly brush olive oil on top of each. Cover with plastic wrap and do the same to the other two. Leave out to rise for about two hours or until they've roughly doubled in size.

4. Generously dust the surface of whatever you are kneading the bread on and plop down some dough. It's going to be quite sticky, so be sure to have lots of flour on hand. Knead the dough until it looks like flatbread pizza dough. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper - optionally sprinkling more flour on - and place the dough on the tray.

5. Using olive oil instead of pizza sauce, coat the dough and spread evenly. Next, apply a layer of your chosen cheese(s), and subsequently the nectarine slices. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the nectarine pieces and bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melting.

6. While waiting for the pizza to bake, get started on the reduced balsamic. Pour the vinegar into a small sauté pan at medium heat and bring it to a simmer. This can be tricky, so fault on the side of under reduced. Once it has thickened, remove from heat and let cool.

7. When the pizza is done, remove it from the oven and place some fresh basil leaves on top, and drizzle the reduced balsamic. Buon appetito!

Bonus: Salted Caramel Strawberries

Salted caramel is all the rage, much to the chagrin of media outlets like the New York Times and Huffington Post, who just can't seem to figure out why.

20 large fresh strawberries
40 caramels
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped mixed nuts

If you want to go the microwave-route: put the caramels, whipping cream, and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave until melted (about 3 minutes), stopping to stir once a minute. If possible, turn your microwave to medium heat or 50% power. If not, take more stirring breaks to avoid burning the caramel.

If you prefer the traditional fancy-schmancy method: heat the same ingredients in a pot at medium heat until melted.

Next, the fun part: Dip the strawberries about halfway into the caramel mixture, roll in the chopped nuts, and place on wax paper. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Enjoy right away or chill for later!

We Hope you enjoyed gardening with us!

How to harvest sunflower seeds: Wait until the flower is drooping - this is when the seeds are fully grown and the plant can no longer support the weight. Cut the flower about 6 inches from the top and separate from the remaining plant. Peel away the leaves and debris surrounding the seeds (seeds grow behind the normally brown center of the flower part). While holding over a bucket, start breaking apart the head of the flower to release the seeds. Once all the seeds are removed from the flower, rinse them off with water and then leave on a paper towel to dry for an hour or two.