Sunday, July 26, 2009

Practical Went Out the Window (a story of my flowers)

Last summer, I worked towards having a relaxing oasis in my backyard. For me, that meant flowers. This year, with the extra expenses of the wedding, we focused more on vegetables, herbs and greens. We take great pride in being able to eat things we grow in our own backyard (not to mention the ease of being able to walk out your backdoor and pick an ingredient as you need it in while cooking). Our flowers were limited to those who grew from 2 packets of seeds and the morning glories which sprout up everywhere in our garden no matter what.

Well, the weekend after the wedding, I started buying flowers. I have stuck to perennials so that I won't have to replant my entire garden every year. I am especially a fan of native plants. Each week I return from the farmer's market with a couple of new plants and I am really loving the flowers that are growing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rhubarb and Green Apple Crisp

Nothing says summer like the tart flavor rhubarb. It is sad that for a good part of my childhood I feared this delicious treat do to it's bitter flavor (when eaten fresh picked from the garden) and celery like stringiness. However, it doesn't take more then a bite of it prepared to know that rhubarb is a real treat.

Our first summer in our house, we were pleasantly surprised to discover a rhubarb plant growing in our garden. This summer I am determined to take advantage of this treasure.

Our rhubarb is a little scrawny right now, so I filled out this crumble with some fabulous tart green apples which worked perfectly.

3 cups cut-up rhubarb
2 small tart green apples
2/3 cup DARK brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 stick of butter, softened
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray 8 by 8 pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Chop rhubarb and apples into small pieces.

Put chopped rhubarb in pan and layer green apple slices on top.

Mix remaining ingredients together in bowl (attempt to not over sample this delicious topping during this process) and sprinkle over apples.

Bake about 30 minutes (until topping is golden brown).

Enjoy. This is a yummy summer treat. It is simple to make and screams homemade, comfort food that will bring people back to memories of their grandmother's kitchen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spicy Italian Soup

From the garden, we made a spicy Italian soup, using many fresh ingredients.

1 lb Italian sausage
1 cup onion (chopped)

1 cup Basil (rough chop)
1 cup Celery (chopped)
2 cups zucchini (chopped)
3 small turnips (cubed)

2 cans diced tomatoes

3 tsp salt
2 Tbsp pepper
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar

Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

In a 4 qt dutch oven, cook the italian sausage and onion until the meat is no longer pink. Add celery, turnips, 1/2 cup of basil, 1 cup of zucchini and turnips. Cook on high for about 10-15 minutes, then add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining basil and zucchini, salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar. Return to a boil and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve with crusty bread (Sourdough from Breadsmith).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Garden Zucchini Quiche

The mild taste and soft texture of zucchini melds perfectly with the egg and cream of quiche. This was my first time making quiche and despite a couple of disasters like not having cream, it overflowing because I put way too much vegetables in it, and cooking it at the wrong temperature (correct temperature listed in recipe below) it turned out tasty and delicious. Actually, the zucchini flavor went so well with the quiche, that next time I might try adding even more and cut back on some of the cream and egg as a result.

Zucchini Quiche:
1 pre-made pie crust (I bough mine already in pie pan ready to cook)
1 cup shreaded low-moisture mozerella
1/4 cup blue cheese (left over from blue cheese burger)
4 large eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 small yellow zucchini, chopped
1 green zucchini, chopped
broccoli (not from garden, but left over from veggie tray)

Heat oven to 425 degrees

Fill crust with chopped zucchini until it is a little more then half full (I filled it too full, so maybe less is more)

Then top with broccoli. I like the broccoli on top because the parts of the flower that stick out the top get deliciously crispy while they cook.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and blue cheese over the top.

Mix eggs, cream and remaining ingredients and slowly poor over the top. I say slowly, because I ended out adding to much for the amount of veggies I put in the quiche. It overflowed slowly for 10 minutes on my counter, overflowed slowly on the way to the oven, and overflowed slowly during the cooking process (luckily I put it on a baking sheet in the oven). Sprinkle top with a little white pepper.

Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees (I had it in at 350 by mistake so it took forever).

Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes or until you can insert a knife into the middle and have it emerge clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This quiche was so good! Even my husband, who claimed he wasn't that into quiche loved it. I am for sure going to try this again (mostly because the crusts come in packs of two). I was skeptical about not making the pie crust dough from scratch, but those pre-made ones have come a long way.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zucchini Galore! (and the beginning of mission zucchini)

I recently discovered that under these giant elephant ear leaves in my garden is an ever growing array of green and yellow zucchini. We honestly thought these were pumpkins! We had planed the seeds long ago, putting the seed packet on the stake. These labels quickly blew away along with any memory we had of what we planted where. Now it is like a zucchini surprise party finding out that we have been growing all this zucchini. I'm glad we caught it, because the little buggers hide along the ground under their big showy leaves.

New Goal: To make use of zucchini in every meal

These are zucchini I discovered on a late night commando mission. My father had informed me to keep a close eye on the zucchini because over night they can grow to almost unusable, seedy proportions. I picked one that was threatening to get a little out of hand out of fear that is would be a bad influence to the other zucchini and possibly insight an overgrowth revolution. Brutus (bulldog, bottom photo) was my backup during this operation.

Here are my seemingly innocent, less rambunctious yellow zucchini in the day light:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why is it pink?

Just a warning to all of you who tried the fabulous roasted vegetables: eating a lot of beats can make your urine pink. After a slight panic after going to the bathroom, my husband explained to me that I did not have some terrible infection. It was just caused by all the fabulous fresh grown beets that I can't stop munching on.

Eating lots of beats=fabulous designer colored pee

* I realize this post is gross. Sorry! I just want to let other people know so they don't waste a trip to urgent care.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burger topped with sauted mushrooms and served with Roasted Vegetables

My husband likes blue cheese, so I adapted this recipe, from the Blues Burger in Taste of Home's "Backyard Grilling" book. These burgers are so good, you aren't going to need any condiments. The slight sweetness of the BBQ sauce coating is a wonderful accompaniment to the strong, salty blue cheese flavor.

Blue Chess Stuffed Burger

For Burger:
1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup BBQ sauce

Burger toppings:
1 container crumbled blue cheese (you will not use the whole thing)
1/2 lb of fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup BBQ sauce
3 rolls/hamburger buns
Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl.

Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl well, needing them together until the parsley is evenly distributed. Shape into 6 thin patties. On 3 of them, place a spoon full of blue cheese in the middle of the patty. Place remaining patties on top and press edges firmly to seal. Grill over medium-hot hear for 3 minutes on each side. Brush each sides with BBQ sauce when it is facing up on the grill. Grill burgers 10-12 minutes longer, or until meat is no longer pink, basting and turning occasionally.

While waiting for burgers to cook, saute sliced mushrooms in a pan using a little butter. When burgers are done, top them with the sauteed mushrooms.

When the burgers are almost done, I recommend slicing and slightly toasting the buns on the grill.

I served the dish with fabulous roasted vegetables. This turned out really well and was a fabulous way to incorporate vegetables fresh from my garden.

Roasted Vegetables
2 small yellow zucchini, sliced
1 medium green zucchini, sliced
4 large beets or 8 small beets, sliced
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup new potatoes
1 package of whole mushrooms

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons rosemary

Pre-heat oven to 350.I put chopped beets, zucchini, new potatoes and carrots into a casserole dish. In a small bowl I mixed the other ingredients and dribbled it over the chopped vegetables. Cook in oven for 45 minutes or until vegetables are to your liking. These came out beyond delicious. The beets were my favorite part, though I would have to say I love carrots roasted more then I like them prepared any other way.

Some things I learned from this...beets are dark and even darker when roasted. I had a little panic when I opened the oven and though I had burnt all the vegetables. It turns out they were perfectly cooked. I probably will repeat the toasted vegetables as a side anytime it is cool enough to stand having the oven on this summer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is this growing in our garden?

We are new to this gardening thing. This year we planted a bunch of seeds. When thing started to grow, we didn't know which were the good plants and which were the bad plants (aka weeds). Someone please help and tell me what to pull! I don't want to accidentally kill a good plant so I feel a little stuck.

Story of Our Garden II

*This is a continuation of the previous post*

Last fall we had to take down our old garage that was falling down and we built a new one on the other side of our house. We love our new/functioning/non-dangerous/usable garage, but we lost our fenced in backyard (and we finally got our dog) and had a giant whole where we planned on gardening.

We finally broke down and ordered some dirt on Craigeslist to fill in the hole. Having no idea about anything landscaping, we attempted to order 20 yards of dirt. Luckily, they could only fit 16 on a truck because 16 yards was way too much! I returned home to find a mountain of dirt, part of it in the alley. We spent the next 3 weekends frantically trying to move all that dirt.

This is a picture about two-thirds of the way through the process:

Finally, we got all the dirt moved, built a retaining wall (with the help of my dad) and had are brand new garden ready to planting.

Story of Our Garden

My then future husband (currently husband) and I had a lovely apartment in White Bear Lake. We, however longed for a dog and a garden. We decided to buy a house on a very limited budget to make those dreams a reality. We bought a house whose previous occupant grew heirloom tomatoes, marigolds and morning glories (which remind me of my late grandmother's cottage). The house had everything we wanted: 2 bathrooms, a ready-made garden and a fenced in backyard for our future pet. Who cares if the house had been scraped and left without paint for years, wood siding rotting? It needed a new furnace and countless other repairs that we are completely underfunded and not experienced enough to do. We were getting our dream; a house, a garden and a dog.

*note: In buying the house, we had to cut the dog out of our budget

**double note: In attempting to paint the house, John feel 35 feet off the house. After almost 7 weeks in the hospital he is lucky to be alive.

We are off to a great start!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why a Blog

Let me introduce myself. My name is Hannah and I live in Minnesota where summers are short and the growing season even shorter. I'm a newly wed who has not had a lot of experience in the kitchen. In the past year, my big culinary accomplishment was finally figguring out how to make mac and cheese...from a box.

As a girl, I always loved to garden and go to the farmer's market. I've been told that the age of four, that I could name every plant in my parent's large East Side (St. Paul) garden. Gardening and going to the farmer's market are now pleasures shared with my new husband John. They really are our favorite things to do. We have been known to sneak off to the farmer's market 3 times in one weekend.

Well, I'm married now. I have a house and a garden. The first crops are ready for harvest from this garden and I am terrified. I don't know what to do with these vegetables! The purpose of this blog is to challenge myself to try new recipes as explore the locally and home grown produce available to me during these summer months.

*note: I live on a city lot, so I have a garden rather then a farm. I hope the title isn't too misleading.