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.

 image

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.)

image

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.

image

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!!

 

Advertisements

Picked and Planted – Sept 1st – 21st

These past weeks we picked:

September has been a lovely month in Nova Scotia.  It has been very warm, even hot on quite a few days – this weekend reached over 30 degrees. We have had some good rains and cooler nights but thankfully no frost or hurricanes. The garden has continued to thrive, allowing us to pick a great volume of vegetables for the freezer and the salsa production line!  I will admit that we have not been out picking as much as we could be with the start of school, sports and the end of vacation, but we are still not paying  for produce…though I will admit that I picked up come gorgeous butternut squash from a farmer’s driveway when we were in the Annapolis Valley blueberry picking, I simply couldn’t help myself – it is so fun putting coins in a jar and picking out fresh treasures with the farmer trusting you completely to pay for what you take!

Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and herbs have been the big hitters, but we have also picked a lot of kale, chard, zucchini, onions, leeks, celery and beets.  We also started picking eggplant and jalapeño peppers! Squash should be ready for harvesting by next week and the new fall crops of greens and radish will be close behind. Fingers crossed we will be hauling in freshness for at least another month!

Approx savings compared to local market: 264.24

Total since May 26th – $1382.70.46

Total weight picked this period: 72.45 pounds!!  That is more than my 8 year old – our minds are blown again!

Total to date: 305.04 pounds

This month we planted:

Fall greens – Bok Choy, Spinach, mixed salad greens and beet greens

Market turnip (30 days!!)

Cherry Belle radish – 4th planting of the season!

I covered the seedlings with frost blankets to keep the soil moist and to help fend off the birds and slugs. So far the battle with the slugs has been awful!

“Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.” ~ Unknown

EPIC Tomato Identification Error! HELP!!

We have discovered an epic error in tomato identification during our tomato taste-off….

Back in the early Spring when little hands were seeding they were very careful to label each seed tray (even if she did plant faaaaaaar too many seeds).

image

These little hands wrote out over 100 little tags so each tomato seedling would have a name under the lights.

image

Each little tag got placed very carefully next to the plants for whom they had been so carefully made.

image

Yet SOMEHOW during our Taste-off, we misidentified one of our favourites.  The second place finalist to be specific.  Each plant in the garden bearing this fruit had the same tag on it leading us to believe that either the seed tray had been tagged in error (that could not have possibly happened with a seven year old running the show, could it?!) OR the seed packet had the wrong type of seed in it. That had to be it, surely…

We realized the mistake just the other day when we researching whether “Mennonite” tomatoes were open pollinated so that we could save some seed from it.  It turns out that “Mennonite” is actually called “Mennonite Orange”. OOPS.  We dug through the old packets and sure enough, the envelope and Incredible Seeds website clearly states, “The Mennonite Orange Heirloom Tomato is most certainly one of the top slicer tomatoes! This large, bright orange tomato is very pretty inside & out with even colour through the skin & flesh. Mennonite Orange is very juicy, very flavourful & so sweet its almost fruity. Super! Another fave! 4-5’ plants require support.” I bet it is….but I wouldn’t know!

image

Our “Mennonite” tomatoes are not orange.  At all.  So in fairness and open honesty – our second place winner in the 2015 Tomato Taste Off goes to….NOT A CLUE!!!

Does anyone know what type of tomato this may be?  We are going to save some seeds and keep our fingers crossed, because whatever it is, it is Yummy!!

image

“If confusion is the first step towards knowledge, I must be a genius!” ~ Larry Leissner

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!

image

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:

image

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…)

image

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.

image

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!

image

“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!

Tomato Taste-off!

The big day has finally arrived!  All 9 varieties of tomatoes that we specifically selected, started from seed under lights, nurtured, rescued from snapped stems and gave away when over 100 grew into viable plants had fruit ripen all on the same morning! We have had a great tomato season, full of fun growing experiments and incidents with little hands seeding far more plants than necessary. Now the time has arrived to post the results of the main event – the tomato taste off!!! Drumroll please…..

image

Round 1 Results

The Red Guys: Scotia, followed by Subarctic and finally Big Beef. This was a close round with the winner being debatable to the point of Rock, Scissors Paper…actually Scotia won in a 2-2 tie, but since both kids preferred the provincial namesake, it won round 1.

Round 2 Results

The colourful guys: In first place we had Lemon Boy, followed closely by Gold Dust. Sadly Black Plum was a very distant 3rd place and was in fact last overall. I am hoping Black Plum will redeem itself when I make sauce with them because they have been left behind in the fresh eating department.

Round 3 Results

The other fellas: Sun Gold was so far ahead in this heat that it won a buy to the gold medal position. Hands down. Second place, which would have actually been better suited in the red category, was Menonnite. This was my personal favourite red tomato this year; oddly enough, they were terrible last year. Finally in this category was the little heirloom, Alaska.

image

The Final Results

Gold: Living up to it’s name – Sun Gold!!

image

Silver: Menonnite – the top red!

Bronze: Lemon Boy, but definitely one of the prettiest varieties

Runner Up: Scotia, you make our province proud!

image

Judging by the left overs they were all winners!! What should we try next year?!

“It is difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts when eating a homegrown tomato!” ~ Lewis Grizzard

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!

image

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!

image

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

Picked and Planted – August 5th-29th

These past weeks we picked:

A whole lot of everything!!  We have had a constant supply of everything from the past month, including a reintroduction of radish from the second planting, some random lettuces and especially exciting was the addition of tomatoes and tomatillos! I love tomatoes so much, I did a special post just on them…yup, love ’em!

August was a big month – we picked a lot, we saved a lot, we jammed and baked a lot while on vacation and since being home, we have frozen a lot.  My hubby is thoroughly enjoying the quote ” We are putting up some big numbers, big numbers…” I can’t argue!

IMG_6452

Onions

IMG_6451 IMG_6450

Herbs and garlic

IMG_6447 image image

All sorts of colourful carrots – no better way to get little ones to eat veggies than to let them pick out their favourite colours and plant them!

IMG_6445 image

Carrots are not the only the only veggies that come in multi-colour!  We have been picking green, yellow, pink, purple and speckled beans in all shapes and sizes.

IMG_6448

Magically, rhubarb has continued to produce in the shade.  We froze 16 cups so far for the winter.

IMG_6440

Apples are almost ripe – we picked 5 pounds in advance of the deer, hopefully we didn’t pick them too early…

image

Our favourite root veggie – beets!  So delicious steamed or roasted.

image

And what good are tomatoes and basil without cucumbers for greek salad?

IMG_6444

And not to be forgotten…TOMATOES!!!!

WOW!  What a month!!!

Approx savings compared to local market: 495.89!!

Total since May 26th – $1118.46

Total weight picked this period: 103.31 pounds!!  That is more than my 12 year old – our minds are blown!

Total to date: 232.59 pounds

image

This was our first massive picking before we left on vacation – the picking buckets get loaded into the truck with everything else so we don’t have to go to the store during our holidays.

IMG_6443

This was our second big picking after holidays for the freezer and storage!

A few notes – 1. Prices are calculated by comparing to the price of non-organic, (local when possible) produce at the local grocery store that we stop at the most.  We usually buy our produce (when our hand is forced) at a local veggie market that is mostly organic and spray free, but tends to be more expensive and has less selection.  We chose to compare to the supermarket as it was more reflective of what most people would buy and what I could quickly take a picture of with my camera when grabbing the weekly essentials without an extra trip. If I cannot find what we grew (market turnip, tomatillos etc.), I will call the specialty market in Halifax for their prices. These costs do not factor in the price of what the produce becomes (jams, pies, baking, salsa, pickles etc.), simply the raw food we pick. I suspect our savings would be almost double if we compared to organic or final products!

2. Since May 26th, we have purchased 2 pounds of tomatoes, 6 cucumbers, 1 bag of potatoes, 8 bunches of bananas, 3 watermelons and 1 pineapple. Everything else has come from our garden or our weekly fruit share from Tap Root/Noggins CSA.  Not bad, if I do say so myself!!!

3. We record everything by hand after weighing our picking buckets with a digital fish scale.  The kids are getting to be very good little book keepers!  We are not separating by variety of tomato, bean, kale etc. but we are separating by type of veggie.  Maybe next year…

image

My wee book keeper.

These past weeks we planted:

Zippo.  Vacation and work got the best of us!  That said, we finally pulled out the peas today and made space for all the fall greens we hope to plant tomorrow and later this week. Stay tuned!

image

(Taken right after we got home – in desperate need of a mow and a lot of weeding!)

Tomato Time!!

We have been away for a glorious 2 weeks of sun, sand, sailing, hiking, playing, splashing and NO TV or INTERNET in beautiful Cape Breton!!  Other than Wifi in the odd restaurant and the radio, we have been unplugged and oblivious.

And we loved it.  Even the kids – we borrowed 2 extra kids to keep ours entertained and they didn’t even seem to notice how disconnected we were in the “stiff tents” that we lovingly escape to with our extended family every summer. For the first time in a long time, we all came home sun kissed, rested and fulfilled.

Thankfully while we were away, my mother came over to tend the garden, picking what was ready and diligently keeping our weight records for us – I have a lot of work ahead of me tallying for August – but that will have to wait because….WE HAVE RIPE TOMATOES!!!

And I am a tomato junkie of the highest degree, as are my girls.  As I write I am eating a bowl full of beautiful fresh ‘maters with basil, cukes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, oh my, my, my….yum!

This gallery contains pictures from throughout the summer of various planting methods that we are experimenting with.  We don’t have great luck with big tomato yields because we live on a windy hill and are susceptible to blight.  We are trying containers, big and small, on the raised deck and the lower patio, raised beds, rows with red film, interplanting with black film and with different herbs and flowers.

Results to date:

Planters: Early on, the plants in the planters on the deck took off but over time they have been hit worse by the wind and lack of moisture.  They are still producing in the big planters though slower than in the garden proper but the smaller planters have succumbed despite extra epsom salts, persistent watering when required and suckering off sick leaves.  I think the extremely hot days and cold nights have hurt them.

Red Plastic:  First of all, this stuff does not block weeds – it lets the sun in and the weeds simply grow up underneath the plastic.  Initially the slowest method, these plants seem to be have the most fruit and least amount of foliage.

Black Plastic: By far the best weed blocker and maintains moisture the most evenly.  There is a more proportional ratio of leaves to fruit than with the planters, but to date we have not picked any ripe fruit from them.  This could be because we planted a later variety but they are definitely behind the same variety in the red film bed.

Raised beds: These are the largest, healthiest plants.  They took the longest to form fruit, but have not struggled as bad during wet spells and as long as they have been watered (more often than in the rows), they have not been bothered by the heat either.

There is no clear winner yet between the red and black film or the raised beds, but planters on the raised deck have been voted out of practice next year.  We will keep a few on the lower, more sheltered patio because they are very convenient, but they will only be placed in larger planters. Time will tell!

The Stars:

Here are a few photos taken by the girls of our treasures – hands down taste favourite is the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes – no competition… second place so far goes to Mennonite, followed by Gold Dust, Alaska and then Scotia.  We are waiting for Subarctic Plenty, Black Plum, Big Beef and Lemon Boy to ripen up to compare. What are your favourites?

 image

The winner – Sun Gold!!

image

Runner Up to date – Menonnite

image

From top right to bottom left: Menonnite, Gold Dust, Scotia, Alaska, Black Plum (not ripe – wee hands picked by accident…), Sun Gold.

image image

Tonight’s “snack”!!! Stay tuned – we are just getting started on the Tomato-Geddin’ fallout!

 “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” ~ Miles Kingston

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

This week we picked:

image image

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

image image

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

image image image

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 :

 image image

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

image

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

Alaska, Subarctic Plenty, Gold Dust and Scotia determinant tomatoes

image image

image

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

image

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….

image

image image

“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!