Tag Archives: Tomato

Is That Spaghetti?

Last week, I purchased a spaghetti squash from Jett’s Natural Produce. I was hesitant to try it after an awful microwave-cooking attempt a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give this fake-out food another try. I’ve got to say that spaghetti squash intrigues me, but disturbs me a bit at the same time. It’s ability to transform from what looks like any other winter squash into a pile of noodle-like substance is beyond my comprehension. It tastes great and is a fantastic healthy option when you are in the mood for Italian, but there’s something of a mind trip for me to get over.

On this attempt, I stuck with the oven as my cooking method, and the results were much better than from the microwave. Paired with a fresh tomato sauce concocted with some of my last tomato harvest and some basil I had chopped and frozen with just a touch of water in ice cube trays, this was a great inexpensive and nutrition packed meal to have after an energetic Zumba workout. Plus, aside from the sprinkling of cheese my husband added on at the last moment, this meal is vegan!

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Fresh flavors create this healthy meal

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • a few scallions (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Apple Ridge Farm)
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes (my garden)
  • 4 T. fresh basil (I harvested from my garden, coarsely chopped it, then packed it into ice cube trays with just enough water to hold the leaves together when it froze. I thawed these for the recipe.)
  • sprinkling of cheese, optional (garlic herb from Keepsake Farm)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and place halves cut side down in baking dish. Add 1/2″ water to pan.
  3. Bake squash halves for 45 minutes or until skin is easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Chop garlic and white ends of scallion (reserving green tops) and add to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Halve tomatoes and add to skillet with basil.
  7. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until tomatoes have softened and formed a saucy base.
  8. When squash is finished, remove from oven and carefully flip halves over. Use a spoon to scrape seeds from center.
  9. Using a fork, separate the squash flesh into strands and add to skillet, tossing with sauce. Slice green tops of scallions and add to skillet. Sprinkle with cheese if desired and slurp the “noodles” down!
Spaghetti Squash

A light yet satisfying meal.


Eep! Frost!

My husband barreled into the bedroom yesterday morning, rousing me at 6:30am with a certain sense of frenzy as he said, “We have to harvest the herbs and tomatoes tonight! Frost, maybe ice and snow!” In my groggy state of mind I readily agreed—I did not want to waste any of our garden’s bounty! However, it wasn’t until I returned home from work and took a closer look at the truly amazing growth of our plants that I could comprehend how big of an undertaking we were in for! In the steady rain, donning head lamps for the sake of having our hands free to pick, we plucked the green tomatoes from their blighted plants and roughly chopped the thyme and oregano to bring in for preservation. For the moment, since the temperature isn’t too cold yet, we left the sage and rosemary, hoping they are hearty enough to withstand the weather until the weekend.

Our tomatoes are at varying states of ripening. What are your preferred methods of ripening green tomatoes indoors? For the day, they are all on the kitchen table, but I realize I will need to most likely do something to help the green ones along.

Final Tomato Harvest

Please, share your advice on how to best ripen these green tomatoes!

We realized we had to “process” the thyme and oregano last night so that it wouldn’t limp, so we jumped right in to cleaning the stems and leaves. We had an enormous pile of each herb! I filled the sink with water and soaked the herbs, shaking the stalks gently to loosen up any dirt or bugs.

Soaking Oregano

Soaking Oregano

Then, working in batches, I spun the stems in the salad spinner to help them dry and spread them on a towel. As they dried, I snipped the stems into lengths of approximately the same size, pulling off any dead leaves as I went. I stripped the leaves off of the last inch or so of stem to make for easy bundling. Grabbing a handful of stems, I lined up the bare ends and rubber banded them together. I made the bands extra tight to allow for the stems to shrink as they dry.

Oregano Bundle

Oregano Bundle

After all the bundles were made, I placed each one in a paper lunch bag with small holes poked in it, banded end towards the opening. I gathered the bag around the stems and added another rubber band. Finally, I hung the bags from our curtain rods to allow for air circulation. I wrote the name of the herb and date on each bag so that I remember to take them down in about two weeks.

Hanging Herbs

Hanging Herbs

We ended up with seven bunches of oregano, plus some saved in the fridge for a last go-round with fresh herbs, and some to take to my coworkers. Thyme was even more prolific, providing us with ten bunches for drying! Woohoo!


What’s For Dinner?

Can you figure out what I made for a weekend dinner based on these local ingredients? Check back for the recipe on Friday and see if you were right!

Ingredients

pork spare ribs, tomatoes, rosemary, cinnamon, onion, brown sugar, peach apricot juice, white wine, cider vinegar, jalepeño, olive oil


What’s For Dinner?

Can you figure out what I made for a weekend dinner based on these local ingredients? This one is a twist on a takeout favorite. Check back for the recipe on Friday and see if you were right!

Ingredients

zucchini, egg, garlic, onion, mozzerella, tomato sauce, swiss chard, basil, oregano


No Pasta Lasagna—It’s What’s for Dinner!

Whether you are trying to cut down on carbs, eat more veggies, change up the standard lasagna or are simply out of lasagna noodles, this recipe is for you! In a lighter twist on hearty classic lasagna, I substituted zucchini and eggplant slices for noodles and layered them with a fresh tomato sauce. It’s a rich taste of summer. I am pretty sure this would hold up in a slow cooker, too!

No Pasta Lasagna

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Ingredients

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Thinly slice eggplant and zucchini the long way. Sprinkle both sides of each slice with salt and set on paper towels to rest.
  3. Chop onion, garlic, pepper and tomatoes.
  4. Sautée onion and garlic over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add pepper, sautée 2 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes and red wine.
  7. Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes.

    Tomatoes Simmering

    Tomato Sauce Simmering

  8. Meanwhile, chop basil and oregano and mix with ricotta cheese in small bowl.
  9. Add egg to ricotta cheese mixture, stir until smooth.
  10. Spread 3/4 c. sauce over bottom of 9×13″ baking dish.
  11. Evenly place zucchini and eggplant slices over sauce.
  12. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over vegetable slices.

    Assembling the Lasagna

    Assembling the Lasagna

  13. Top with 3/4 c. sauce.
  14. Repeat layers until all components are used up, ending with sauce on top.
  15. Slice cheese and place evenly over top.
  16. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender and cheese is browned on top.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

    A twist on the traditional!

    A twist on the traditional!


Girls’ Night Gnoshing: Italian Roasted Veggie Dip

Each Wednesday a group of my friends and I get together for a night of testosterone-free hanging out. Sometimes we head to Roosevelts (if they are not having an obnoxious DJ) for gravy cheese fries & $4 mixed drinks and sometimes we gather at someone’s home for a BYO night. Either way, it’s sure to be a night of laughter, booze and good food.

A couple of weeks ago, girls’ night was going to be at a friend’s home, and I realized I didn’t have anything to bring! A quick survey of the kitchen didn’t turn up any prepared snack food, and I was out of alcohol. All I had were vegetables! I was pretty well stocked on eggplant, so I thought of making baba ganoush, but I didn’t have any tahini on hand. So, I pulled out what I could find and figured if my friends didn’t like it, we just wouldn’t eat it. Well, all of it was gone by the end of the evening, so I take that as a good sign. Bring this Italian dip with you next time you need an easy snack and you’ll be all set!

Italian Roasted Veggie Dip

Ingredients:

[My husband was kind enough to roast the veggies for me while I was running errands, so I don’t have a picture of everything raw.]

Simple ingredients for a complex-tasting dip.

Simple ingredients for a complex-tasting dip.

  • 1 large eggplant (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 1 large onion (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 1 large tomato (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Heritage Farms CSA)
  • 12-15 fresh basil leaves (our garden)
  • 4 sprigs oregano (our garden)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. lemon juice (I didn’t have any, so my dip darkened a bit, but was still tasty)

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and sprinkle with salt. Let rest 10 minutes.
  2. Cut onion into thick slices.
  3. Cut tomato in half.
  4. Place veggies cut side down on cookie sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until eggplant is soft. Let cool enough to handle.
  5. Meanwhile, chop garlic in food processor.
  6. Add basil and oregano to food processor, pulse until finely chopped.
  7. Scrape pulp out of eggplant skins and add to food processor.
  8. Add tomato and onion to food processor.
  9. Process until smooth.
  10. Slowly add olive oil while processor is running until dip is desired consistency.
  11. Let sit at least 1 hour before serving with crackers, toasts or pita chips.
Italian Roasted Veggie Dip

Italian Roasted Veggie Dip


What’s for Dinner?

Can you figure out what I made for a weekend dinner based on these local ingredients? Check back for the recipe on Friday and see if you were right!

Ingredients

eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, green pepper, onion, garlic, cheese (this is garlic herb jack), ricotta

Ingredients 2

Last minute additions: red wine, egg


Roly Poly Bleu Zucchini—It’s What’s For Dinner!

If you haven’t purchased or grown roly poly zucchini before, find your nearest farmers market and go buy one now! Not only are they adorable, but they are perfect for stuffing or using as bowls for soup or stew. My father grew these in his garden when I was young, and I will never forget the chicken stew (called Chicken a la Kane, like all his other dishes, with no reproducible recipe) he served in them for dinner one night. It was absolutely delicious, and the edible squash bowl was better than any bread bowl I ever had. So, when two golden beauties showed up in our CSA share, I was ecstatic!

These round squash beg to be stuffed, but I was out of bread crumbs like I normally use for stuffed zucchini and didn’t have time to make more before yoga class. So, I had to do some fridge digging for a starchy alternative. A nice fresh ear of corn caught my eye, and boy am I glad I used it! These were a welcome departure from the usual stuffed squash—Lighter, refreshing and full of summer flavor.

Roly Poly Bleu Zucchini

Ingredients:

Roly Poly Bleu Zucchini Ingredients

All local, full of vitamins & nutrients, inexpensive & delicious!

Easton Salsa Company 2011 Farmers Market Hot Sauce

Last minute addition!

• 2 roly poly zucchini (from Heritage Farms CSA, would work with long ones, too)
• 1 onion (from Heritage Farms CSA)
• 1 ear of corn (from Traugers)
• 3 plum tomatoes (from my own garden)
• a couple of dashes hot sauce (I used Easton Salsa Company 2011 Farmers Market sauce)
• bleu cheese, to taste (I used a 1.5″x1.5″ chunk of raw milk bleu from Klein Farms)
• handful of fresh basil leaves (from my own garden)
• a few sprigs of thyme (from my own garden)
• 1 egg (from Valley View Farm)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut off the stem end of the zucchinis, about 1/2″ down. Scoop out the inside, leaving about a 1/4″ shell. Save the pulp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the inside of the zucchini shells with some salt and set upside down on a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  3. Chop the zucchini pulp and return to the bowl (mine turned out a bit watery, so you might want to squeeze out a bit of the liquid).
  4. Carefully remove corn kernels from cob (Click here to see a great post/video about how to do this without making a mess!) and add to the zucchini pulp.
  5. Cut two slices from the plum tomatoes and set aside. Dice the remaining plum tomatoes and add to zucchini and corn mixture.
  6. Dice onion and sauté for 2 minutes in large skillet. Add vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  7. While the veggies are cooking, finely chop the basil & thyme and crumble the bleu cheese.
  8. Once the liquid has evaporated from the skillet, stir in the cheese and herbs.

    Veggie, cheese and herb filling

    Veggie, cheese and herb filling

  9. Transfer veggie mixture back to bowl and add the egg, stirring well. (If you do this in the skillet, you might end up with a fried egg.)
  10. Pat out the zucchini shells with a paper towel and place on a baking sheet.
  11. Spoon the filling into the shells and top with the saved tomato slices.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes.
  13. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

    Roly Poly Bleu Zucchini

    Mine had a little juice left in it, but it was still tasty and I got to sop it up with bread. If you don't want the liquid on your plate, squeeze out the zucchini pulp a bit.


Midweek Menu

My husband and I try to eat locally produced, unprocessed food as often as possible. In the middle of a hectic week, it can be really tempting to swing into a drive-thru (blech!) or order takeout, but we try to avoid the expense and nutritional void of each of these options. So, in addition to freezing portions of home cooked meals for later use, I have a collection of meal options that are fast, easy and flexible with whatever local ingredients I might have on hand.

Obviously, pizza is one of the easiest and most flexible dinner creations to make. Every so often, I make a big batch of pizza dough so I can bake and freeze the crusts. If I don’t have a crust on hand, I look around for what I can use. I have used everything from leftover mashed potatoes to risotto to tortillas to focaccia bread as a pizza crust. Tonight, I went a fairly standard route—bagel pizzas—and it was perfect for a simple Wednesday meal. Someone at work had sent some 2-day-old spinach herb bagels from Johnny’s Bagels home with me (I know! I have a propensity for acquiring old baked goods! It’s fantastic.). I rummaged through the fridge looking for toppings. The only sauce we had was in the freezer, but our CSA share included a mega tomato this week. The basil plant in our garden went into overdrive this year, and we had some fresh mozzarella from Klein Farms. Slice the bagels & tomatoes, layer with basil, top with cheese, toss in the oven for 10 minutes and dinner is served!

Bagel Pizza

Bagel Pizza

Bagel (or english muffin) pizzas were a staple for many people growing up, but the simplest meals can be forgotten sometimes. When we first started on our “locavore” diet, I thought the nostalgic meals of our childhood would have to be skipped over for more sophisticated food with local ingredients, but I’ve found that there is really a local alternative for everything (except for the canned meat products my husband used to enjoy :X ). So, next time you need dinner in a rush, just pilfer the refrigerator and cupboards—There’s got to be ingredients for some sort of pizza in there!


Aw Shucks!

One of the most notable events in this town each year is Musikfest, a 10-day celebration of music, food & beer that takes over all of downtown (and, this year, south side). I began this blog too late to cover it this year, but next time I’ll be sharing my experiences for sure.

The biggest reason (no exaggeration) I go to the festival is to get my hands on an enormous ear of Aw Shucks Corn. If I don’t get to eat this buttery, spicy, savory snack at least once during Musikfest, my year is not complete.

Granted, it is now possible to find Aw Shucks in a couple of other locations, like the Iron Pigs stadium, but it’s just not the same as navigating through the crowd in Volksplatz wielding a large ear of corn and a mug full of beer while listening to a man in a black plague mask play an obsolete bell instrument.

Our Garden

Our teensy garden, overflowing with herbs & tomatoes.

This year, I had some extra tickets at the end of the night and splurged on my very own bottle of Aw Shucks Southwest Seasoning. Oh, the possibilities! Not only will I be able to fulfill my insatiable corn cravings at home, but I can Shucks up anything I want! I am having visions of baked potatoes, shrimp, salad dressing …

It didn’t take long for me to open the canister and spice up dinner … My husband was making some homemade pasta (someday when he lets me photograph him at work, I’ll post that recipe), and I had just plucked some tomatoes and sage from our garden. Um … Pasta, tomatoes, sage, Aw Shucks seasoning? Yep, it’s good. And ridiculously easy!

Aw Shucks Tomato Pasta

Ingredients:

Aw Shucks Pasta Ingredients

All local ingredients for this savory dish.

• 4 entree-sized servings of pasta (homemade makes it extra tasty)
• 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
• a handful of sage leaves
• 4 T. butter
• Aw Shucks Southwest Seasoning, to taste (You can order it on their site! In a true emergency outage of seasoning, use another southwest or Cajun blend)
• Parmesan cheese, to taste (mine is from Klein Farms)
• a few gratings Gouda cheese (optional, my husband snuck it in and it was good! Also from Klein Farms)

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta to al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in halves or quarters and chop the sage leaves.
  3. Sauté the tomatoes and sage in a small non-stick skillet for a few minutes, just to loosen up the juices and bring out the sage flavor. No oil or butter necessary.
  4. Sprinkle in Aw Shucks seasoning to taste. Stir and remove from heat.
    Tomatoes, Sage, Seasoning

    Such vibrant colors!

  5. Strain pasta. Add butter and toss until coated. Grate in Parmesan and Gouda (if using).

    Pasta and Cheese

    Kevin's homemade pasta, topped with Parmesan and sneakily added Gouda.

  6. Add tomato mixture to pasta mixture and toss.
  7. Serve hot, topped with a little more grated Parmesan and Aw Shucks seasoning.

    Aw Shucks Tomato Pasta

    I want more!!!


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