Friday, August 5, 2011

Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce

A quick recipe for your enjoyment. Ben and I improvised this as we cooked and ended up with a fabulous final product. This is a great easy way to use up some of the surplus of tomatoes that you may have this summer! The measurements I have included are approximate since we were tossing things in as we went. Just adjust to the taste and texture you like.

2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T Red Wine Vinegar
1 T Butter
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 - 4 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced thick (amount used depends on how much you like mushrooms!)
6-8 large tomatoes or 10-14 small tomatoes, chunked
1 small handful fresh basil, chopped
1 small red chili, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 - 2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 - 2 tsp dried marjoram (sub in fresh if you have it!)
1 8oz can tomato paste

In a large skillet or sauce pan heat up a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add red wine vinegar, butter, and minced garlic.
Toss in baby bella mushrooms. Add more EVOO if needed. Saute on high for a few minutes until they show some color and soften a bit.
Add in tomatoes, making sure to include juices. We chunked our tomatoes right over the pan so as to keep all those juices in the sauce.
Add basil, red chili, marjoram, red pepper, salt and pepper. Gently boil at med-high heat 5 - 10 minutes until the juices start to concentrate.
Add can of tomato paste to thicken sauce. Simmer for another few minutes to bring the sauce together and thicken to desired consistency. Check spices and add more as desired.
Serve over al dente spaghetti or other pasta of choice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let the eating begin!

Our garden is just starting to let us in on its bounty. Our pepper plants are struggling a little, but everything else is flourishing. Note for next year... less is more. I don't think we realized how much a single plan can produce when planted in good soil!

So far the harvest has been: 2 yellow squash, 6 zucchini, 4 pickling cucumbers, 1 salad cucumber, 2 grape tomatoes and 2 yellow cherry tomatoes. No, the grape and cherry tomatoes did not make it inside the house! They were happily consumed in the garden while searching for zucchini in the other bed.

I found two quick refrigerator pickle recipes to use up my cukes, and I must say they turned out delish!

The first recipe I made comes from Aarti Sequeira, last season's Food Netword Star winner. This was my favorite of the two pickle recipes... slightly sweeter, and the cilantro with the salad cuke is so perfect and summery! The only modification to Aarti's recipe that I made was that I substituted white wine vinegar for rice vinegar. Turned out great even with a substitution.

The other recipe I used was actually a Rachael Ray dill pickle recipe. While I am definitely not a Rachael Ray fan, this recipe was easy and really good. It has a good mix of spices and herbs with the white vinegar, and the addition of garlic added really good flavor. The longer these sit in the fridge, the better they taste, too!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From the ground up...

We tried to garden last year... tried and (mostly) failed. The soil at our new house is solid clay so aside from grass and weeds things don't grow well here. We did have some very successful green pepper plants though, and we were motivated to try harder this year. I decided to take up blogging again to journal about our garden adventures and our journey toward a simpler life.

Since the clay wasn't friendly toward the plants we tried to grow in it last year, we decided to cart in some better soil and build a better growing environment from the ground up. Over a month ago Ben and I built ten garden boxes to hold the soil we were planning on getting. Our boxes are just build out of pine 2"x6" boards with 2"x4" pieces as the connecting supports. We built two 30'x2' boxes, two 4'x8' boxes, and six 4'x12' boxes and laid them out in their places.

Fast forward through many rainy weekends until we finally had a dry(ish) day to have soil delivered last week. Of course the day we were going to borrow a tractor to distribute our dirt to our boxes it started raining for two days. Thankfully by Saturday of Memorial Day weekend the rain had cleared up. Saturday and Sunday were spent hauling and spreading dirt, picking up more dirt at the distributor, hauling and spreading more dirt, and finally hauling and spreading dirt in a thunderstorm! Yes, that's right... it started storming mid-task Sunday afternoon, so we decided to buck up and finish the job. Finishing the soil left us all day Monday to spread landscaping fabric down between all the boxes and get our load of pea gravel spread on the paths. Once done with the boxes and paths, we were finally able to get our seedlings and seeds in the ground!

Lest you think that this all went smoothly, rest assured that box gardens are a ridiculous amount of work and we had plenty of issues along the way. The tractor got stuck in the soggy clay a few times, and once got stuck for quite a while. The remaining grass back there will take a long time to come back and some of the tractor tire ruts are there for good. I already mentioned the pouring rain that we spread soil during, but then on Monday the temperature hit at least 85 with full sun, giving us some fantastic sunburns. Not to mention the fact that we initially tried to get these gardens in about a month ago!

After all of that, I'm just thankful that the gardens are planted. If we get even half of what we planted to produce, then we'll be eating like kings all summer! We'll have: seven varieties of tomatoes; summer squash and zucchini; strawberries; three types of beans; three varieties of peas; several kinds of lettuces and spinach; radishes; celery; six kinds of peppers; six kinds of winter squash; potatoes; three kinds of onions; cucumbers for eating and pickling; carrots and parsnips; rutabagas and turnips; and that's not counting the herbs in my deck boxes and herb garden! We should be stocked on herbs: basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme, marjoram, dill, sage, rosemary, lavender, beebalm, mint, parsley, chives, and chamomile.

I'm looking forward to finding ways to use and preserve our harvest this summer!