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!

The flurries have begun and the 2015 garden $$ totals are in…Picked (but not so much planted) Sept 22nd – Nov 18th

The garden is tucked in for the impending winter season.  Will it be soft, gentle, fluffy and peaceful or a raging onslaught of freezing rain, blizzards and hurricane speed winds?  In Nova Scotia one never knows.  I have been holding off on doing the final tally of what we picked, weighed and calculated this season thinking that we would have stopped bringing in a regular harvest long before now.  But blessings be acknowledged, the girls continued to haul in buckets of treasures up until last weekend!  We did have to buy some tender veggies and extra salad greens from the market last week – the first real time since June!!  There are still beets, carrots, kale, chard, leeks, onions and mixed greens tucked under hoop tunnels and snuggled under frost blankets for special treats between now and full freeze up, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of our harvest is now in! We had our first flurry today, winter is unavoidable.

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When we began asking ourselves how much we could be saving in produce, we never expected that the totals would be so high.  We also never anticipated the volume of veggies that we could actually consume as a family of four during 1 season, nor how much we would be able to freeze and jar to extend our feasting. And we certainly didn’t even stop to think about how much fun it would be to weigh, track and tally our bounty – who knew kids could get so excited about book keeping?!

 

In the end it is safe to say that this experience has been far more worthwhile to us than any actual $$ total.  It has taught us to be less wasteful by ensuring we consumed what we picked, less picky because even ugly cucumbers taste great and save us money and to be even more grateful for our ability to “shop” for dinner right in our own backyard.  It is amazing how much more we appreciated our own produce when we compared what the weekly prices were in the market for what the kids simply pulled out of the (non-chemically treated, clean earth, worm filled and flower kissed) dirt. Dirt is amazing!  And seeds, well they are just mind blowing. Really.

 

So without further adieu…..drumroll please…..the totals for Sept 22- Nov 18th of our 2015 season are:

Approx savings compared to local market: $972.75!!!!

Total since May 26th – $2355.45 WOW!!!

Total weight picked this period: 136.09 pounds!!  That is almost as much as I weigh….

Total to date: 341.15 pounds (That is a lot of veggies!!!)

These totals are compared to local produce when possible but not specifically organic produce – we would prefer to eat local than purchase organic food that has had to travel very long distances, using wasteful packaging and not being allowed to ripen to perfect.  We do use organic methods in our own garden, so the estimated savings would likely be much more significant had we compared to local AND organic produce!  Not to mention the savings in jams, jellies, spreads, sauces, salsas, dried and frozen herbs, saved seeds, compost, cut flowers…you get the picture!

 

Dollars and cents may speak to some, time outdoors and exercise to others, quality conversations and relationship building to most…how do we put a price on the value of our family garden?!

 

 

 

Eating Local – “Roadside” Squash, Sage and Pancetta Rissoto

September raced by in a blur of back to school, back to sports and dirty harvest hands!  September is by far our favourite month in Nova Scotia; the sun shines bright and warm during the day and the welcome cool evenings allow for comfortable sleeps and a break from the humidity of the summer.  It also brings an abundance of beautiful harvest – squash, pumpkin, herbs, potatoes and of course the best pile of fresh tomatoes! Roadside farmer’s stands wait with piles of fresh treasure and little jars to drop in coins.  The simple trust placed in the “would be” consumers is such a heart warming sight – in a world where it is often scary to turn on the evening news there is a peace to be found in an afternoon drive through the country side seeking out the perfect squash, the clink of a toonie in the bottom of a jar when the prize is scored and the satisfaction of knowing it can’t get much more local than the end of the farmer’s driveway! We picked our own squash from the garden but we couldn’t help ourselves when we found the motherload of Butternut squash on a back road in Sheffield Mills last weekend – I couldn’t let it pass by and of course my tummy growled for my favourite squash recipe – Sage, Pancetta and Squash risotto. It can easily be made with bacon or without any meat at all as a vegetarian option – my “Meat-a-tarian” husband wouldn’t hear of that option! So as a final recipe in our 50% September Local Eating challenge, here is our recipe-ish…

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Our roadside bounty! $2 each and a rogue melon for $1- best price in town!

Local Ingredients

2-3 cups Butternut squash, cut into small cubes

8-10 sage leaves

3 Tbsp olive oil – From Liquid Gold!

4 cups homemade chicken stock (I had some frozen)

4 tablespoons Tatamagouche butter

1 medium onion, cut fine

8-10 sage leaves, chopped

2 1/2 cups of white wine – I used Jost Kabinett because I like a lighter taste, but a dry wine would work very well too (I would use less wine and more stock though…)

From the Store

1/4 pound pancetta, in small pieces

2 1/2 cups of Arborio Rice

1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

How we did it…

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In a skillet, we cooked the pancetta to almost crispy. Once cooked I drained it (leaving a few drippings in the pan) and set it aside.  To the skillet I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and the squash over medium high heat until almost soft.  The sage, salt and pepper were added for about 1 minute at the end. The smell is amazing!

In the meantime…

In a large pot, we melted 3 tbsps of butter with 2 tbsps of olive oil and sauteed the onion until clear over medium heat. Then we added the rice and stirred constantly for 2 minutes.  (My minions helped, this is key to multi-task recipes!)

To the rice we added the wine, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed.  Then we added the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time (while I sipped a glass of wine of course) until it was all absorbed – roughly 25 minutes.

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Once the risotto was soft and oh-so-creamy, we added the last tbsp of butter, the squash, sage and the pancetta to the pot with most of the parmesan, gently folding it all together.

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Obviously, it was served with the matching wine and sprinkled with the parmesan cheese on top.

Who knew bargain roadside produce could be so rich?!

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Eating Local – Magic Bean, Beef and Basil Thai Stir fry

My girls love “magic beans” – the ones that start off as purple, pink or speckled, but turn green when they are cooked!  They think they are very smart beans because they let us know when they are ready to eat simply by changing colour – keeps us from eating too many soggy beans!  Our garden is pumping out more beans than we can keep up with up so we decided to add them to a family favourite – Beef and Basil Thai stir fry and it turned out to be better with the beans than we could have imagined.  I will admit that there are more non-local ingredients in this one because of the Thai ingredients in the sauce, but we still meet the 50% target!  This one will be back on our plates again soon for sure!

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Here is our recipe (ish):

On medium high heat, in a large non-stick skillet we combined:

1 Tbsp fresh chopped garlic

1 Dried jalapeno, chopped fine

2 tbsps olive oil

1 medium onion

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Once the onion was soft, we added:

1L fresh beans, snapped in half, ends removed

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4 Tbsp fish sauce

6 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp lemon grass paste

2 Tbsp water

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Just before the magic beans had turned colour we added:

4 large steaks, grilled and sliced (if using fresh meat, cook after step 1 in garlic and chilis and set aside).  There are so many wonderful grass fed beef farmers in our province!!

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Finally, once the beans were tender crisp and the steak was hot, we added 1 cup chopped fresh purple and green basil from our garden.

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We served it with hot jasmine rice, but it could easily be enjoyed on it’s own to get that “Local” percentage of ingredients a bit higher!

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Just typing this post made me want to make another batch!!

Eating Local – Oh. My. Goodness. Leftover Roasted Potato, Bacon, Beer and Corn Chowder

Joining the 50% Local Club for September has been a great experience for us!  I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to stick to it – there are so many local options this time of year to pick from and with a  little digging through product, many ingredients can be found that I didn’t even know could be produced locally can be found.  I have even heard the kids lecturing each other about their choices when packing lunches, it is quite cute.

Last weekend, my hubby had a milestone birthday and we planned a big surprise party for him – including 40 cobs of fresh corn and 20 pounds of herb roasted potatoes along with a bazillion other dishes. And beer – a whole lot of Alexander Keith’s (except that we don’t drink beer…what to do with the leftovers?!)  Needless to say, there was a lot of corn, potatoes and beer leftover the next morning.  4 vacuum sealed bags of corn went into the freezer for the winter, and I decided to try to create a chowder of sorts by combining a few different recipes with what we had leftover and what I could find in the fridge or garden.  SUCCESS!!!  Oh. my. goodness.

Everything except the olive oil, salt and pepper in this recipe came from the garden or a local source!

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Here is our recipe (ish)

8 strips of bacon (Martock Glen) – cooked, cut and set aside. I drained most of the drippings but left a little in the pot.

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3 tbsp Tatamagouche butter

1 onion

4 leek scapes

3 cloves garlic

These 3 were sautéed together until the onions were almost soft in the butter and bacon drippings in the pot.

3 cups chopped carrots – added after the onions were almost done with the following herbs…

1 tbsp fresh thyme

½ tsp fresh rosemary

3 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs of fresh dill

2 bottles Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale – Yup, I poured it right over the veggies and herbs, turned the heat to medium low and let it all simmer until the carrots were almost done – about 15 minutes.

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Then we added:

5 cups Leftover local Oven Roasted Potatoes (Spuds, Olive oil (okay, this wasn’t local…), garlic, thyme, basil, chives, oregano, crushed red chilis, salt and pepper – roasted at 425 degrees for roughly an hour)

5 cups leftover local Corn on the Cob, niblets stripped and separated.

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Once it was all warm and the flavours were nicely blending – about another 15 minutes on medium low, we added:

5 cups of Farmer’s half and half (enough to cover the veggies)

Salt and Pepper

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Once hot, but not boiling, we added:

Fox Hill smoked Gouda, parsley and chives to garnish

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We also made a batch of cheddar rosemary biscuits – and then we gobbled it up until our bellies hurt.  It was even better the next day for lunch!

Eating Local – Kid Style! Maple Balsamic Caprese Kabobs

I am not sure why but my kids love anything that has been stabbed by a tooth pick!  We were having company over and instead of salad the girls were far more interested in making kabobs – they used the classic Caprese salad fixings, only on a stick and “dunked” instead of drizzling.  Despite these little treats having a grown up taste, they were definitely a hit with the under 12 crowd!

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From the Garden:

Sun Gold baby tomatoes

Genovese Basil

Sweet Basil

Purple Opal Basil

From the Store:

Liquid Gold Maple Balsamic Vinegar (Local!)

Fresh Mozzarella mini balls

How they did it:

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Simplicity is the key to success!  The girls stabbed a tomato, then a basil leaf or two, then a cheese ball.  After arranging them on a plate, they dunked them in Maple Balsamic Vinegar.  My Hubby preferred to dunk them in a mixture of Olive Oil, traditional Balsamic vinegar, garlic and sea salt (I had some dressing made from another night, the maple was too sweet for him…)

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They did not last long enough to get a picture of the full tray!

Eating Local – Sweet and Spicy Peach Blackberry Salsa

The fall is such a great time to make fresh salsa.  It doesn’t keep as long as cooked salsa, but the flavour is so good that it doesn’t last in our house anyways!  Because we seem to be completely inept at growing bell peppers we have been substituting with other yummy fruits and veggies that are ready.  Tomatillos have been the main substitution for peppers but we went a little crazy tonight and tried fresh peaches from our CSA box and blackberries that we have been picking along the woodline of our backyard. We have found a winner – the girls are even packing little containers of it in their lunches which is a glowing endorsement in my book!

This batch made a large salad bowl full, around 1.5 L, but it could easily be cut in half or thirds.

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Here is our recipe(ish)

From the Garden:

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped chunky

2 medium onions; one red, one white, chopped the way you like it

2 Jalapeños, seeded and chopped fine – very spicy!

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Roughly 12 large basil leaves, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 cup blackberries

4 small peaches, chopped (okay…these came from our TapRoot/Noggins Farm CSA box, not our garden – but they were grown locally!)

From the Store:

1/3 cup white vinegar (I bet a flavoured White Balsamic Vinegar from Liquid Gold would be amazing. No, they didn’t pay me to say that, but I am addicted to their coconut vinegar; too bad I ran out!)

2 Tbsp sugar (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste.

How we did it:

Chop, combine, let sit to allow the flavours to blend and then gobble!!!

We are eating this salsa on grilled haddock with brown rice but it is also going quickly with just nacho chips!

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“I wish my PMS would manifest itself in a desire to clean rather than a desire to invent foods to put salsa on!” ~ BAHAHAHA – whoever came up with this one has my full support!

Eating Local – Rainbow Hodge Podge

I love Hodge Podge, an East Coast traditional vegetable soup/chowder of sorts.  It celebrates simplicity, deliciousness and fresh garden treasures.  There are many ways to make Hodge Podge, but in honour of my wee girl’s delight in planting pink and purple veggies, we made a rainbow version today with what we could pick fresh this morning.  Being a wee bit different with the pink and purple beans and carrots, we thought it would be okay the break the rules a bit further and add a red onion and a few chives. The great part about hodge hodge is that there is no real rules, you throw stuff in the pot as you prep the next step (and if you are really good you can even have a batch of biscuits in and baked by the time the process is done!)  And the best part – it is almost completely sourced from the backyard or a local market this time of year; the slat and pepper are the only renegades!

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Here is our recipe(ish)

From the Garden:

1 Red onion, chopped fine

3 cups Pink Chieftain Potatoes, chopped chunky

2 cups Purple Gem Potatoes, chopped chunky

A handful of chives

3 cups Orange, purple and white carrots, cut chunky

3 cups Pink, purple and green beans, snapped

Snap peas (as many as I could salvage)

From the Store:

1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream, 2 1/2 cups milk – that is what we had in the fridge (or half and half) – Local!

1/4 cup Real Butter –  Local!

Salt and Pepper

From the family – Grandma’s Butter Biscuits 

Sorry, this one is top secret!

How we did it:

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Simmer the onions in butter until clear (ish)

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Add chopped potatoes and chives, add water just to cover. Bring to gentle boil until the carrots are chopped.

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Add the carrots, cook for 5-10 minutes, then add the beans and reduce the heat.

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While the carrots are cooking – prep the biscuits (only knead 20 times – 21 would be against the time honoured rules!!)

Once the beans go in, cook for 10 minutes and put the biscuits in the oven (mine stay in 16 minutes).

Once the beans are just tender, drain off the water.  Add the milk, cream, 1/4 cup of butter and as much salt and pepper as needed to taste.

Heat over medium low heat to hot (the biscuits should be done just on time!).  Do not boil.

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Of course, the biscuits are for dunking…if they last!!

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They don’t last long in our house….

Eating Local – Backyard “Almost” Greek Salad

We have joined the 50% Local Food Club for the month of September.  It is encouraging us to think about our food choices, where it came from, how far it travelled and how the producer is rewarded for their efforts.  I am pleased to say the first 2 days have been easy – our garden keeps us easily stocked with more than 50% of our diet right now.  BUT one can only eat so many raw cucumbers without going a bit crazy!

Today’s lunch and the side for tomorrow’s dinner is Backyard “Almost” Greek Salad – “Almost” because I didn’t add olives; I can’t grow them.  Thankfully Fox Hill Cheese has local Feta for tomorrow’s dinner!

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Here is our recipe (ish)

From the Garden:

3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

2 chopped fresh cucumbers

2 small red onions

1 small white onion

3 tomatillos

Roughly 25 basil leaves

1 handful fresh oregano leaves

5 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped

20 sprigs of chives

2 cloves chopped garlic

From the store:

1 cup chopped Feta cheese (Local!!)

1/3 cup Olive Oil

1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar

2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard

Chop all of the veggies, place in the bowl and sprinkle with the herbs, chopped finely.  Shake the oil, vinegar and dijon mustard in a mason jar with the minced garlic and pour over the veggies.  Add the cheese, and if desired, kalmata olives.  Stir and let sit for a few hours for the flavours to blend.

So yummy, so fresh, so much more than 50% Local! What are you eating – share this around and share your recipes to make this month extra special!

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“The colours of a fresh garden salad are so extraordinary, no painter’s pallet can duplicate nature’s artistry” ~ Dr. Sunwolf