Kitty’s Presto Pesto Pasta

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6 POUNDS OF BASIL!!!

What on earth do we do with 6 pounds of beautiful basil?  We knew we had a great crop this year – we have been picking and enjoying fresh basil seemingly without end since July, but we were not expecting to harvest 6 pounds when frost threatened!!  Thankfully we LOVE basil and it freezes really well for the winter.

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Not only do we love to eat basil, it helps us in our battle against weeds.  Battle against weeds you ask?  YOU BET!  We sprinkle basil seeds around the bases of freshly planted tomato and pepper plants and as they grow, they create a lovely, tasty, fragrant weed barrier – bonus score!  We planted 3 varieties this year – Genovese, Sweet and Opal (purple) basil. They taste similar and I cannot honestly say I prefer one to the other.

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Even the bees love basil!!

Soooo….what to do with all of this green gold (literally – 2 ounces of fresh basil was $2.49 at the market this week….)?  My wee girl and I set to work and we spent the morning blending, pesto-ing and cooking!  The house smelled amazing and our bellies were full and happy – as is the freezer.

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We began by pulling the leaves off the stems…

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This is the square footage 6 pounds of basil covers!! But it packs down pretty tight.

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For simple freezing, we added 10 cups of leaves and 1 cup of olive oil to the blender.  I don’t have nearly enough ice cube trays, so once blender-ed to “smizereens”, we spread it over plastic plates, covered them and popped them in the freezer. Once frozen, I pull them off the plates, cut into chunks and store in freezer bags to pull out and add to sauces and salad dressings all winter.

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And of course, we made pesto!!

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Our recipe that we like to use is:

8 cloves of garlic

1 cup of pine nuts

4 cups of packed basil leaves

1 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of grated fresh parmesan

Salt and pepper

Presto! Once blended, we freeze this as well on plastic trays – I am hesitant to jar pesto for long term storage given the risks of botulism with garlic but we do keep a few in the fridge.

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So with all the work done, my wee girl’s belly was grumbling, a perfect excuse to make fresh pasta to serve with our pesto and some tomatoes picked that morning!

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For the homemade pasta we mix 3 1/2 cups of flour with 3 fresh eggs, 1 cup of local wine and 3 cloves of pressed garlic.  Kneading the dough with an extra 1/2 – 1 cup of flour until it is no longer sticky is key – and fun for little hands!

Once the dough is set, we cut off small chunks, dust them with flour and run them through the pasta mill – first through the pasta sheet side, then through the fettucini noodle attachment. The noodles are spread on cloth until they firm up a bit – about 30 minutes. Boil in salted water for roughly 5 minutes until cooked to the right texture. Once drained, we toss them with the fresh pesto and chopped tomatoes.  My hubby the “meat-a-tarian” added some local sausage to his before we sprinkled the plates with more grated parmesan.  And of course, we always have to sip some paired wine (grape juice for Kitty…) and belt out Andrea Bocelli for full Italian effect while eating (feel free to have a listen and a sing-along with us!)

The finished product – Kitty’s Presto Pesto Pasta!  Mama Mia, delizioso!

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What do you do with your beautiful basil?

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Hehehe, this made me giggle!

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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 – 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!

Picked and Planted (and poking up!) -June 2nd to June 8th

This week we picked:

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Pak Choi and Market Express Turnips and greens -planted 26 April

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Easter Egg radish (aren’t they pretty?) The Cherry Belles are getting really big…

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Mesclun, Buttercrunch lettuce, Red Oak lettuce, Arugula and Spinach

Peppermint Swiss chard – We ate it before we took a picture…ooops…

Ragged Jack and Dinosaur Kale

Rhubarb, Rhubarb and more Rhubarb!

Cilantro, Chives, Green Onion and Sweet Basil

Approx savings compared to local market: $50.12

Total weight picked this week: 12.64 pounds

This week we planted :

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These are the “Salsa bed” and the “Italian bed” – I love the flowering Kale that overwintered under the tunnels.

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Big Beef, Lemon Boy, Black Plum, Menonnite and Sungold Indeterminant tomatoes

Alaska, Subarctic Plenty, Gold Dust and Scotia determinant tomatoes

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The tomatoes were getting “leggy” from the cold weather while they patiently waited on he deck to harden off – we plucked the lower leaves off and buried them deeply in the raised beds and sideways in the rows.  We are trying planters, black film, red film and straw mulch this year, it will be interesting to see which way works best…

Elsewhere in the raised beds and rows…

Jalapeno, King Arthur, Big Bell and a few mystery peppers (my wee one ate a pepper from the market, saved seeds, planted them and stuffed them in the garden!)

Sweet and Opal Basil

Cilantro

Utah celery

Packman and Munchkin broccoli seedlings

Flowers: Galdiolis, Nasturtuim, Calendulas and Sunflowers

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Boyne Raspberries and Galdiolis together in a newly redone bed

Poking up:

My wee girl’s garden is popping up all over the place! The squash have also poked out from the black plastic but no signs of the cucumbers yet….

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“If you are what you eat don’t be fast, cheap and easy” ~ No idea who said this, but it made me bust out laughing when I saw it on a mug! 

A glimpse under the grow lights – April 7th (or Survival of the fittest and vegetable infanticide…)

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Nova Scotia continues to be buried in feet, yes FEET, of white stuff. In fact, we woke up to another 5-10 cms this morning.  Usually by this time we are prepping early beds, assembling poly tunnels and seriously considering planting the early veggies outdoors under cover (peas, kale, bok choy, onions, beets, carrots, chard and spinach)…not this year. There is some hope in that the temperatures are warming up and there has been some melting but at this rate I am afraid it will be a very, very late start to the garden. Thankfully the grow lights are shining away and the early starts are doing well – the veggie babies may not have a nice dirty outdoor place to move into before they peak, but they seem happy for now.

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Potted up veggies, herbs and flowers patiently waiting under the lights until they can move outdoors.

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Columbine reaching for the light.

Many have been potted up to larger pots and some have graduated to another location with less direct light as we have started to run out of space under the lights.  My wee girl has a nice sunny window and found a little greenhouse unit that has moved into her bedroom as well for her maturing flowers(she simply had to have it…and I simply couldn’t say no…) !!

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She simply HAD to have it!! We added some lights to the bottom for a little something extra…

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A few of my Wee girl’s Coleus plants happy in the sunshine! (This is about half of them…oooops!)

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Chamomile, Impatiens and Rudbeckia – also in her greenhouse…ahem…bedroom…

We have had some casualties, sadly. This weekend, as we were potting up seedlings and starting new seeds (the 6-8 week prior crowd), we found many seedlings that had been burnt by organic seaweed fertilizer. Yup, unintentional vegetable infanticide. We had diluted the fertilizer even more than the directions had stated and waited until at least 2 sets of leaves had grown, but it was still too strong and in the end, only the strong survived….fail.  The bok choi and chard were hit the hardest, with jalapeños suffering a fair amount as well.  The cauliflower and broccoli fared somewhat better, with the strongest seedlings overcoming the weaker ones.  Survival of the fittest. And unfortunately this is the second year in a row we managed to do this…double fail.

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Damage from the fertilizer – discolouration and stunted growth. I am not sure if they will pull through. Has anyone else had this issue?

My wee girl was pretty sad and after we gave the lost seedlings a little burial in the compost bin we had a big chat about the circle of life. I never expected that gardening would lead to philosophical discussions of life, death and the afterlife, but am glad that I had the opportunity for this talk to happen over vegetables before she really has to deal with a loss of someone close. So as we continue to wait, and wait, and wait for the snow to melt, at least I can pass on a few life lessons and we can peek under the lights (instead of under frost blankets) to see what’s poking up!

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“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” ~ Rafiki (after bonking Simba on the head – probably what I deserve!

The flower baby stork arrived!

Instead of a rambling…ahem…memoir, this is a quick, excited “garden gush”!

My wee girl was checking up on her seed babies last night and found many had germinated all ready (they are quite tiny and hard to see in photos, but about 80% are up)!  A little happy dance ensued…

Tenny, tiny perennial dianthus the stork delivered last night

Teeny, tiny perennial dianthus the stork delivered last night.

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The first of my little girl’s pink and white petunias have poked up from their nest! Only 4 days since they were seeded in the incubation station.

Mama’s sweet basil and opal basil germinated in 3 days on the heat mats. My happy dance was not nearly as cute…

” Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” ~ Robert Lewis Stevenson