Too Much of a Good Thing?

Can there be too much of a good thing?

Are 11 Aussie pups too much of a good thing? Colorado’s Desert Storm, this mama, – who is related to our Aussie, Oakley – would probably say “YES!!!”
Are too many flowers too much of a good thing? And I love Brooklyn’s stoops!

Yes, this September 14, 2020, New Yorker magazine cover speaks to me. Along with many others, I over-planted this summer – as the pandemic impacted our daily lives, and colorful flowers and veggies took on a new role – a bright, lovely and healthy respite from life with masks and isolation and dreariness (as an aside, Andy finds his respite from life in one of his dresser drawers – see Andy’s Corner).

Have I said it before? I don’t “do” annuals – at least not until this year. During all of our years with our gardening business, MiniBlooms, I was happy to plant annuals for others, but I stuck with perennials and shrubs for our home. My argument? Life is too short to have to buy and replant year after year after year.

The summer of 2020 was SO different. I enthusiastically, almost obsessively, brought home 6-packs of zinnia orange ‘Profusion,’ 4″ pots of mango-colored calibrachoa, and a few of the fabulous little petchoa (a cross between calibrachoa and petunias) in an amazing dark reddish-brown color. I stuck those between the ‘Vancouver Centennial’ fancy leaf geraniums – that are normally considered annuals but actually survive our Northern California winters.

It was a great summer diversion. But in the long run, it wasn’t my style. I still love my more simple and permanent perennial beds. Now we’ve got the lovely echinacea ‘Tangerine Dreams’ (from Cottage Gardens of Petaluma), sempervivum ‘Centennial’ (from Sonoma Mission Gardens), achillea ‘New Vintage Red’, and chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Mini Gold Buttons’ (both from Friedmans). If you live in Northern California, fall is a perfect time for planting perennials.

And do I have advice about planting your perennial beds? Of course! The biggest mistake I see folks make is planting just one or two of something. You need repetition of the same plant to unify the bed. Don’t plant too many different varieties. Stick with drought tolerant if you’re in the west. Mulch. Don’t line plants up. And PLEASE have a color scheme!

Our annual bed – summer of 2020.
Our newly-planted (and still very young) perennial bed – fall of 2020

Vegetable gardens can also produce way too much of a good thing. Take zucchini plants, for example. We have neighbors who wince when they get their box of CSA (community-supported agriculture) produce, dreading the amount of zucchini that may be included. While we are one of the few who are only fair at raising zucchini, we have enough Thai chile peppers on our one plant to burn our tongues and make our eyes water and noses run through about 20 meals. Actually, make that 40 meals. The plant has more than 20 little red hot chiles and we can’t bear to put more than half of one into any recipe.

Can you have too much zucchini? 🙂 I hear “YES!” from y’all. Whether or not they’re a “good thing” might be debated.

If you’ve got too many zucchini – and maybe don’t even like them much – I heartily recommend our zucchini bread recipe. I guarantee that even the biggest zucchini hater won’t detect their presence. And it’s such a refreshing change from banana bread! If you have lots of zucchini and just need some more recipe ideas, you can’t go wrong with Zucchini Fritters, Zucchini and Mint Frittata, Zucchini and Mint Turkey Burgers, or Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef.

Are the 20+ crazy-hot peppers on our Thai chile pepper plant too much of a good thing! For sure.

If your one Thai chile pepper plant is over-producing, try Thai Spicy Basil Chicken (which just happens to be from one of our daughter’s cookbooks). And, of course, a teeny bit of minced Thai pepper can go into any recipe calling for Serrano or Jalapeno pepper. Just remember that Thai chiles are about 20 times hotter than a Jalapeno, using the Scoville Heat Units.

Thai Spicy Basil Chicken

Thai Spicy Basil Chicken

If you want more typical Thai – and hotter, add a touch more of the Thai minced chilies.  Adapted from Asian Vegetables by Sara Deseran

  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced Thai chile.  If you’re using jalapeno or serrano chiles you’ll want a little more (try to scrape out some of the seeds  – and wash your hands before rubbing your eyes!)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into teeny pieces or even coarsely ground
  • 2 T fish sauce (we use Red Boat)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 c very-firmly packed Thai basil leaves (if you can’t find Thai basil, the common sweet basil will work – you’ll just miss that anise-y taste)
  • 2 red Thai chilies, thinly sliced (optional – for garnish)
  • rice to serve along side

In a wok or large, deep skillet over high heat, heat the oil.  Add the garlic and chili and stir-fry for 15 seconds.  Add the chicken and stir-fry for about 1 minute or until it becomes opaque.  Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar and continue to stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from the heat and toss with the basil leaves until the basil leaves wilt.  Garnish with the red thai chilies, if you’re using.  Serve immediately, with rice along side.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

  • Servings: depends - it makes 1 large loaf
  • Print

Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook and Shirley Estabrook Wood.

  • 1 1/4 lbs zucchini – you should have about 2 c after grating it
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3/4 c butter, melted (12 T)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 c chopped walnuts (or substitute pecans)
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9″x5″x3″ loaf pan.

 Grate the zucchini (you can peel it if you want; if it’s organic, I don’t peel).  Set aside.

Combine the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or a food processor). Start beating. Add the eggs one at a time. 

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add this mixture gradually to the butter mixture while beating.

Fold in the zucchini, walnuts and vanilla. Note: the batter will be very thick.

Pour the batter into the buttered loaf pan. Place in the oven and bake 60+ minutes or until bread pulls away from the sides of the pan. Let cool 10 minutes on a rack and then remove from the pan and cool further on the wire rack. Don’t slice until the bread is cool.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

4 Comments

  1. David Ewing says:

    You can dry your chiles, but why not ferment them in a 2% brine with a clove of garlic and a little piece of onion for a week or so, then run them through the blender with enough of the brine to make a hot sauce thin enough to suit you? You can keep that in the fridge and use it dropwise ’til kingdom come.

    Like

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