Category Archives: Gardening

An Overdue Update

Wow I can’t believe how much I have abandoned my blog during this pregnancy.  I haven’t visited or posted on here in the last 2 1/2 months!  I guess we’ll just call it an unannounced maternity leave.  Time has been going by so quickly this summer, and I guess I have somewhat lost interest and had my mind on other things.  And I must say that since the beginning of the pregnancy, I have sort of lost my creative spark in the kitchen.  I know, it is sad.  In the beginning I had a very picky appetite, although no problems with nausea or morning sickness.  Then my appetite and taste for food got more normal but cooking has just seemed like more work than it ever did before.  Other than my creative spunk in the kitchen, or lack of, there has been plenty of other fun things to post on so I think I have some catching up to do.

I know, enough excuses already, but I also must say that I always heard about ‘pregnancy brain’ before and thought it was sort of just a joke.  I’m telling you, it is real.  It is very REAL!  I won’t have my husband get on here to tell stories and examples, but will just say it is real, it’s not really funny, and maybe has something to do with neglecting the blog.  =)

I should start with a little update on this season’s gardening.  Honestly, my energy and effort in the garden has been much the same as in the kitchen.  Again, sad.  This summer we have had 90 degree weather all day every day for a while now so I tend to stay out of the heat and go in the garden right when the mosquitos want to come out and run me out of there.

My sunflowers are probably my favorite thing in the garden this year.  They now stand tall and make me happy.  I’ll definitely have to plant a bunch of them from now on!

And then of course the berries!  Processing of them has so far consisted of eating them fresh and sticking the rest in the freezer. =)

Had plenty of strawberries to enjoy too…

Our tomato bed sort of exploded with all the sunny hot days we’ve had, and is now full of green tomatoes..

And we are still enjoying some Chioggia Beets and some carrots.  I don’t think they did as great as we got them the last couple summers, I’m thinking it’s because every day this spring was rainy and then it seemed to switch overnight to being 90 degrees and hot everyday…

The peas did pretty well too.  Oh and my lavender from last year came back, and blew up…

So the garden has not got all the TLC this year that it has deserved and needed, I suppose I should get out there and pick more raspberries and pull some weeds.

I will be back soon to post updates on the progress in the baby’s room.  It’s a work in progress, and slow going, but I have a lovely vision for it and I’ll soon share pictures of the improvements along the way.  =)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It’s spring in Montana, so that means there are some yummy treats being made with our rhubarb.  This is our plant’s third season planted here, and I love seeing it come back bigger and better every year.

The leaves and stalks are huge, they took up half of our dining room table.  I froze a lot of berries last summer from our garden and some produce farms in WA that we visited, so with the strawberries I stored away in the freezer I’ve been making Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie lately.  So good, I love the sweet and tart combination.

Just snapped some quick shots with the ol’ iPhone cameras, and this was the last piece of pie so it was kinda falling apart and I didn’t get to take one of it glistening when it was hot out of the oven.

Pie is not usually the first dessert I make at home for me and my hubby, even though I come from a long line of pie-making and pie-eating dutch women!  There usually has to be a good reason for me to make it, like Thanksgiving, or an abundance of rhubarb.  🙂  The fun thing about pies though, is the more you make them the better you get at it, and it’s good to be familiar with how to make a good dough and master pie crust.

You can find the recipe over at my cousin’s blog, Born in the Wrong Century.  🙂

Courgette Favorites :: Fried Zucchini

Can I think of any more not-so-nourishing ways to eat this vegetable??  Well probably, but we won’t go there for now.  My mom always made fried zucchini when I was growing up and I love it.  I don’t deep fry it, and neither did she, but we do a bread crumb coating and pan fry it.  They’re so good as a part of dinner or a little appetizer.  I made a lot of them last night and they’re pretty darn good the next day as a leftover snack too.

::Fried Zucchini::
1 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. bread crumbs
1 or 2 large zucchini, 1/2″ thick slices
optional:
1/4 c. grated parmesan

With three bowls set out, fill one with the flour, one with two eggs, and one with bread crumbs (and parm if using).  Season the flour or the bread crumbs with s + p.

Roll each slice in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs, and set on a baking sheet or plate.  Heat a large saute pan (non-stick, cast iron, or stainless) over medium heat, coating the pan with about 1/4″ of olive oil/vegetable oil.  When oil is hot and a pinch of bread crumbs gives a good sizzle, set the coated zucchini in the pan.  Don’t over crowd the pan, cook them in two batches if you have a lot.  Let sizzle and brown, about 5-ish min. on each side.  Only turn over once.  Line the same baking sheet or plate with paper towels and set fried zucchini on it to cool.  Each slice is done when it’s golden brown on each side, and if you press on the center a little and it’ll give.

Tips:
–Use one hand for rolling the slices in the dry ingredients and the other for the wet egg layer, to minimize fingertip clumpage.
–1/2″ thick slices work best, firm on the outside and tender in the middle.
–When removing from pan and setting on paper towels, set the recently-cooked-side down, rather than turning over, so that the oil doesn’t soak back into the zucchini, but runs down into the paper towel.

These are served best with a little marinara or some aioli, but also just right without any dressing.  Cheers!

Courgette Favorites :: Stuffed Squash Blossoms


Carrying on with the zucchini theme in the kitchen, I must share one of my absolute favorite things to do with the garden goods, specifically the blossoms from the squash plants.  They’re not the healthiest little treats to make with your garden produce, but a treat indeed, and a good use for the blossoms.

I pluck my squash blossoms and when I have at least a dozen good ones, I fill them with a ricotta-mozzerella cheesy goodness, roll them in flour, egg, and bread crumbs, and pan fry them.  If you have zucchini blossoms in your garden and never end up eating them, and stumble upon this blog post, you’ve got to try it!  They’re even better with a little marinara to dip them in, but I usually am so eager to eat them I don’t bother with heating up the sauce.  =)



::Stuffed Squash Blossoms::

1/2 c. cream cheese, softened
1 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 – 1 c. mozzarella, grated
1/4 c. parmesan, grated (optional)
1 egg yolk, (optional)
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
pinch of s+p

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, ricotta, egg yolk, basil, s+p, and stir in the mozzarella and parmesan.  Use a pastry bag or a quart size ziplock bag, folding the top of the bag over your fingers and spoon in the cheese filling.  Cut the point off the ziplock to squeeze the filling into the blossoms.  (The cheese filling can be any combination of cheeses you like, even using just ricotta and mozzarella works well).

Carefully hold the blossom and pry it open on one end, squeeze the cheese into the blossom.  Have three bowls ready, one with flour, one with 1-2 eggs lightly beaten eggs, and the other with bread crumbs.  (Can always add in a handful of grated parm in w/ the bread crumbs).

Toss the stuffed blossoms lightly in the flour, then the egg, then bread crumbs, one at a time.  When they’re all coated, set in a hot pan evenly coated with olive oil/canola oil.  Let sizzle and get golden brown on all sides, turning carefully every two-ish minutes.  Remove from pan when golden and crisped on all sides.

Enjoy!  And let me know if you have made these before, or if you’re going to give it a try.  =)

Courgette Favorites :: Zucchini Angel Hair Pancake

I’ve been in a zucchini mood lately, which works out well since I’m getting a bit of it from the garden and farmer’s market.  We enjoyed this dish last night for dinner, and though it’s a bit of work, it’s well worth it.  It’s a fun, delicious, Italian dish. I’ve made Zucchini Potato Pancakes before, and those are great as a side in your dinner but this big pancake with angel hair pasta serves well as a main course, and makes really good leftovers.  This recipe was in a Cooking Light magazine I was flipping through while getting my hair done last week.  So I went home, looked it up online and whipped up one big pancake.  =)

The only things I switched up in the recipe was the 1/3 c. flour that is called for, I replaced with 1/4 c. bread crumbs and 1/4 c. flour, and only did a little pinch of baking powder, and did more parmesan.  I also should have used my nonstick skillet but used the stainless saute pan, and rather than flipping it I cooked it til brown and crisp on the bottom then finished it in the oven at 450 for 20-25 min.
Well the food photography was done indoors and at night, so the pics don’t make it look as appetizing and delicious as it was, but this with a little green salad really is perfect!  YUM!  =)

Homemade Pickles

I picked up seven pounds of pickling cucumbers at the Farmers Market and am going to make and can Dill Pickles.  I’m pretty excited, been wanting to do this for a while now and don’t know why I never did it last summer.  We planted some pickling cucs in our garden this year but I have yet to figure out how to grow them here.  One of our unsuccessful garden plantings, we need some more warm weather here and a longer summer, and/or a greenhouse!

Anyway, so nice and easy to be able to get them from a local produce farm at the Farmers Market.  Have any of you made and canned dill pickles?  I would love to hear your tips and secrets of success!  I am using my William-Sonoma Art of Preserving book, which I love and it has served me well so far.  Anyway, would love to hear some tips! =)

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

I made this soup the other night with our potatoes from the garden, so I can freeze it and have it to pull out for dinner on those chilly winter nights to come.  I’m not so sure any of it is going to make it to the freezer.  Can’t. Stop. Eating. It.  Even with the weather so warm right now, and usually I don’t care for hot soup in the summer, I’ve been enjoying it for lunch and dinner.

So comforting, soothing, heartwarming, creamy, and flavorful.  I basically did Ina Garten’s recipe from my cookbook, Back to Basics, and changed it up a little.



The roasted potatoes and leeks, sauteed shallot and garlic, white wine, chicken broth, parmesan, whole milk, parmesan, and a sprinkling of thyme and parsley all make for the best flavor!  Really, if you plan on making potato soup sometime soon, you’ve got to cook this one up!

::Roasted Potato Leek Soup::

3-4 lbs potatoes, cut in 3/4″ cubes (ideally yukon golds, but I used russets and reds from our garden)
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1/3 c. olive oil
Spread the potatoes and leeks out in a single layer on 3 baking sheets, drizzle well with olive oil and s+p and toss.  Roast at 400 F for 35-40 min.

3-4 T olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c. dry white wine
2 qts. chicken broth
4-6 c. whole milk
4 T. parmesan, grated

In a large stockpot heat the olive oil, add in shallots, then garlic and saute til a few min., then toss in two sheet pans of the roasted veg, setting aside the third pan for later.  Saute only a couple min., pour in white wine and let cook a few min.  Add about 1 qt of broth (enough to make it thin enough to puree).  Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture in the pot (or puree batches of it in a food processor).  After it’s all pureed in the pot, heat back up, add in 4-6 c. whole milk (or cream), parmesan, and sprinkle in 1 T. fresh or dried thyme, fresh parsley, and s+p to taste.  Do not let it get to a full boil, but a gentle simmer.  Add in the last baking sheet of roasted potatoes and leeks to the pureed soup, stir up and enjoy! 

We have now pulled out all of our potatoes from the garden, I think I will make another pot of this to have more to freeze.  It is so nice to have homemade soup in the freezer on those winter evenings where soup just sounds perfect, or those weeknights that you just don’t feel like cooking.  =)