Chilly Carrots and Kale

Adversity? Nope – Hard core gardening!!  Fit for a deer?! We aren’t going to let a snow get in our way…

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Who said you can’t have fresh back yard garden veggies in the Canadian winter?! It takes some planning, some luck and a bit of crazy – but seeing little faces light up when they find veggies they planted last summer under the snow is pretty cool.

It was actually warm enough to dig under the snow with some garden gloves in the winter tunnel this morning (a balmy +3 degrees celsius!).  The strong winds and piles of snow destroyed our pitiful little tunnel, but the straw insulation managed to protect the few precious carrots we had left!!  Hubby thought he had picked most of them for Christmas dinner but there were enough little guys left for a quick snack!!  The kale is still going strong – that “vile weed” seems to survive everything we throw at it.  Thank goodness it tastes good in soup and pasta…

The beet, turnip, leek and onion tunnel is still covered in ice and feet of snow (completely unaccessible on crutches), hopefully we will be blessed enough with a few more warmer days before winter sets in again and we will be able to see some green under there as well!

Worth a try next year in your yard?

 

“Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.” ~ Og Mandino

Pantry Shopping – Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

As promised (though delayed thanks to life), we had leftover sauce from our veggie lasagna and some spaghetti squash from the garden in the cold room (it will last all winter in a cool dark space after picking in the fall).  Instead of noodles, the girls love spaghetti squash roasted in the oven and stuffed with spaghetti toppings.  I prefer it to pasta; it is not nearly as filling, obviously not processed and doesn’t leave me feeling so stuffed!  Plus – it is way more fun to “pick our pasta”! We have made veggie stuffing alternatives using mushrooms, butternut squash chunks, onions and beans instead of the meat but I will admit that my 2 meat-a-tarians prefer it this way.

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Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

From the cold room

1 large spaghetti squash, dried oregano, thyme, chives and crushed chilis peppers

From the freezer

1 pound each of local hot Italian sausage (Cavicci’s meats makes great sausage!) and ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey, browned.

Ingredients for tomato sauce – We had left over sauce to use, about 3 cups worth.  If we have none prepped, to make enough for 1 large squash we normally use the equivalent of 1 large can of frozen tomatoes (about 15 frozen paste tomatoes), 2 chunks of frozen basil (about 2 tbsp), dried herbs and some garlic scapes.

For this recipe, if I don’t have any sauce actually cooked, I will just blender the tomatoes with the basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp each of dried thyme, oregano, chives and salt and pepper. We then add the “sauce smoothie” directly into the meat and warm it in the browning pan. Easy, easy cheat!!

From the fridge

1 cup each of cottage cheese, ricotta and mozzarella cheese

How we did it…

After halving and seeding the squash, we roasted it face down with a bit of olive oil at 350 degrees for roughly an hour (or until for fork tender.)

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In the meantime we combined the meats and left over sauce. In a separate bowl we combined the ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 tsp of crushed chilis and 1/2 tsp each of extra oregano and thyme.

Once roasted we filled the bottom 1/2 of each side of the squash with the cheese mixture and the top 1/2 with the meat and tomato sauce mixture. We covered the top with grated mozzarella and returned to the oven to bake until bubbly. We devoured this with a green salad with pears, seeds, dried cranberries and apples – all local!  Yum.

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LEFT OVER BONUS!  If the squash is a bit smaller, the left over meat and cheese mixtures can be added to brown rice with some black beans and salsa to make another great quick meal!

Now what to do with all of the frozen kale and carrots….? Soup!!

 

Freezer Shopping – Veggie Lasagna

Brrrrrrrr……..

Winter hit us this week; snow storm, strong winds, school cancelled, the works.  Being temporarily out of commission due to a pesky set of crutches that seem to be particularly fond of me I couldn’t get to the grocery store.

Ba-ba-da-da!! (Insert catchy lilting “eureka” sound byte here…)

It hit me suddenly – We have a deep freeze full of everything wholesome, home grown and nutritious we needed to make some comforting cold weather, “I just want to wear crocheted slippers and an ugly sweater in front of the fireplace” food!!!!  I had stocked up on fresh seafood and meat from the market who sources from local farmers and had the few remaining ingredients on hand, so not only would we not need to get to the store, at least 75% of the ingredients would be locally sourced as well!  May I re-iterate it is January and not much is growing fresh in our neck of the woods = score 1 for the freezer!

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After hobbling down the stairs on one crutch (so I could carry stuff with my free hand), I found everything I needed for 2 pots of soup, a veggie lasagna and stuffed spaghetti squash between the freezer and cold room. I would have gotten the girls to help, but they were too cute sledding in the front yard I didn’t have the heart to call them in…ahhh to be so excited about snow to be oblivious to the actual weather conditions…

So if you are chilly and need a warm, filling, hug from a bowl of soup or a good hearty pasta alternative, the next four posts will include recipes to warm you up!  The first one is Veggie Lasagna because it was the recipe posted on Italian Kitchen that got me craving lasagna in the first place, thanks!

Veggie and 3 Cheese Lasagna (adapted from Italian Home Kitchen)

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From the Freezer (Vacuum sealed fresh from the garden)

2 cups cubed Zucchini (thawed), 4 basil chunks (see Kitty’s Presto Pesto post if you’d like to see how we froze our EPIC basil harvest this year!) – about 4 tbsp, the equivalent of 3 large cans of frozen tomatoes and 1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes

Fresh Veggies

2 big handfuls of spinach and 1 1/2 cups (ish) of mushrooms

From the “Cold Room”

4 cloves of dried garlic, thyme, oregano, chives, chilis and 1 small butternut squash

From the Cupboard/Fridge

2 cups of grated mozzarella, 2 cups cottage cheese, 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, 3 eggs

1 box of lasagna noodles (I didn’t have any fresh zucchini to slice into “noodles” with the mandolin).

Sea salt and Fresh ground pepper

How I did it..

The sauce: In a pot, I put all of the whole frozen tomatoes (about 20 or 2L), the garlic, basil, herbs and scapes with 1/2 cup of water and then let it all simmer until it was hot and bubbly.  The few skins that I had been too lazy to remove before freezing floated to the top and I just skimmed them out.

Once it smelled amazing and the juice had the right taste to my liking, I blendered it into a sauce and left it to continue reducing until I was ready for it.

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In 2 separate bowls, I made the filling layers.  The first bowl contained the eggs, well beaten, the cottage cheese and 2 big handfuls of fresh chopped spinach seasoned with sea salt and ground pepper.  The second bowl had the zucchini (liquid mostly drained after it had thawed), mushrooms and thinly sliced butternut squash.

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Layering: Starting with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a stone lasagna pan, I alternately layered uncooked noodles, the spinach and cheese mixture, the veggies then more sauce.  I sprinkled each layer with a bit of mozzarella before starting the next noodle level. On the very top, I spread the mozzarella and the parmesan.

Into the preheated oven it went – 350 degrees for about an hour and a half – I covered it with foil for the first 45 minutes.  Once the noodles could be pierced with a fork and everything was bubbly, it was all ready!

The verdict – success!  I served it with a loaf of bread I had found in the freezer from a baking marathon earlier in the winter and a green salad.  Only my wee girl complained about the mushrooms, but she conceded that it was easier for her to pick them out than for the rest of us to put them in! It was a bit runny, the next day for leftovers it was perfect. The only other feedback from the carnivore section was that there was a serious lack of meat, but they too grudgingly admitted that it was delicious without it!

Thankfully I have enough sauce left over to make the meat-a-tarians happy and will make stuffed spaghetti squash tonight. Check back – I might get the girls to take more pictures of that one too!