Tag Archives: vegetables

Ending the Summer with Orzo with Roasted Vegetables!

It’s hard to believe that the summer is drawing to a close, although I have to say, the cool weather is a welcome change. I keep seeing leaves falling from our many trees, and it’s getting me excited for fall. However, I know, there still are a few weeks left. As your squeezing in those final summer get togethers and Labor Day picnics, take a look at this recipe! Orzo with roasted vegetables is a delicious alternative to potato salad or cole slaw, or whatever you normal take. It’s pretty easy, travels great, and is absolutely delicious.

Peel and chop 1 small eggplant into 1 inch pieces. Chop 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 red onion into 1 inch pieces as well. Throw them all on a sheet pan. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat all of the vegetables in the oil, then spread out on the pan. Cook at 425 for 40 minutes until browned. Turn them once with a spatula about half way through so they don’t stick and get evenly browned.Ready for RoastingGetting ThereDone!

Meanwhile, cook ½ lb. orzo according to the package directions. If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s a pasta, similar in shape to rice. You can find it in your pasta aisle. Once it’s cooked, drain and add it to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables when they are done, and any delicious liquid that may have accumulated in the pan. Make the dressing by combining 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons), 1/3 cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine, then add to the other hot ingredients. Stir, and let them all combine while they cool to room temperature.OrzoRoasted VeggiesJuicing LemonsLemon JuiceOlive OilPepperAlmost Ready

If you’re going to use the salad in a day or so, you can cover and store this salad in the refrigerator before adding the rest. The day you’re going to serve, take the salad out of the refrigerator several hours early to allow to come to room temperature. Add 4 minced scallions (both white and green parts), ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, ¾ lbs. crumbled feta, and 15 basil leaves, thinly sliced.ScallionsBasilPine NutsFetaCombined

Toss everything to combine, and there you go. The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and really is a delicious one. Give it a try at your next get together. I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews, and lots of requests for the recipe!

Easy and Delicious Pot Roast for those Cold Nights!

olive oilOne of the best things about the winter months is making big, hearty meals that warm your body and your soul. Those comforting meals do wonders in the cold, dreary months. It’s been cold here, and somewhat dreary. While I’m still waiting for a big snow storm, we’ve had lots of little ones! So, this week, it was the perfect week to make a simple and delicious pot roast.

To start, you need a 3 lb chuck roast. I look for one that has good marbling but isn’t too fatty. In a dutch oven that’s heated over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sear the roast on all sides, about 5 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Then set the roast on a plate to rest while you continue with the vegetables.chuck roastseared chuck roastIn the same pot, brown 3 medium onions, chopped. I like to use sweet onions, but whatever you like, or have on hand, is fine. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until brown and soft. Next, add 4 celery stalks, chopped, 8 small carrots (4 large, although I keep getting small ones at the store), peeled and chopped, and 6 cloves garlic, minced. Cook all of the vegetables together for about 5 minutes.onionscooked onionscarrots and celerychoppedgarliccookingOnce the vegetables are ready, add the roast back to the pan, on top of the vegetables, along with 1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 2-3 cups beef broth. You want the liquid to just cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot, and set in a 375 degree oven for about 2 1/2-3 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when the meat can be pulled apart with a fork.tomato pasteready for ovenWhile the pot roast is cooking, quarter 24 oz button mushrooms. You’ll also need 4 tablespoons butter. Add 1 tablespoon butter to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook 1/4 of the mushrooms in the butter until brown. Continue with the rest of the butter and mushrooms, cooking in 4 batches.mushroomsquarteredbuttersauteing mushroomssauteed mushroomsWhen the pot roast is done, remove from the oven. Take out the meat and shred with two forks. Be careful to remove any large pieces of fat. Add the meat back to the pot along with the mushrooms.shreddingbeefIt’s warm, rich, meaty, and delicious! I hope it keeps you warm on these cold winter nights!

It’s Finally Spring and I’m Planting!

I think we can all agree, it’s been a long winter, or at least those of you not in sunny, warm locations that don’t really have to deal with winter.  Even though I know there is more cold weather in the forecast, it was a great first day of spring yesterday.  The temperature hit the mid-50s, the sun was shining, and I took the opportunity to plant my seeds.

SuppliesThere were a number of seeds in my order that required early planting, and yesterday was the perfect day for it.  I received my order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company a few weeks ago, and I purchased my supplies, pots and soil, so I was ready.

The last few years, I’ve used biodegradable peat pots for planting seeds.  It works out really well.  They soak up the water and stay moist, and you can plant the whole thing when you’re ready to plant outside, great for those tender transplants.  This year I Stripspurchased Jiffy Strips from the Home Depot.  They are cheap, $2.49 for a 5 pack, which can hold 50 plants.  The other great thing is, you can write directly on them.  Instead of needing popsicle sticks or some other way to mark which seedling is which, I just use a Sharpie and write on the outside of the strips.  It’s that simple.

For this planting, I like to use an all-purpose potting soil.  It’s full of nutrients and stays moist.  VIgoro All-Purpose Potting Mix was the brand of choice this year, because it’s what I Strps Filledhad left over from the fall.  And a side note about potting soil, make sure you keep the bag closed once it’s opened.  I like to twist the top of the bag and fold it over itself.  Even if it’s a resealable bag, it never seems to stay closed for me. If it’s left open, the soil will dry out.  If that happens, before using the soil, just dump a few cups of water into the bag, toss it around, and leave it sit for a day or so.  The soil usually perks right back up.  I know you’re probably thinking that you can do the same thing in the pot, but you really can’t.  The water drains too quickly and it can’t hold the moisture, so it never perks up.  Throwing some water in the bag before using it definitely works better.

Fava SeedsSo once I have my strips labeled, I start planting.  I follow a pretty simple process.  For seeds that need to be planted deep, like the fava beans, I fill the strips with soil, then drop the seeds on top.  I always plant multiple seeds, at least 2-3, just to be sure that something comes up.  Then I push the seeds down deep into the dirt.  These need to go 1-2 inches down.  I top them off with soil and pat everything down a bit so there isn’t any loose soil.  Done!

TarragonFor finer seeds, like the tarragon, which didn’t need to be planted that deep, I fill the strips with soil, then I push down the soil first.  I spread the seeds then sprinkle some additional soil, but only a very light layer.  Press down again to smooth the tops.  Done again!

Once I had all of the strips planted, I started watering.  I don’t like to pour water on top.  Some of the seeds are so fine, the water can carry them away.  Instead, and this is another great reason to use the peat strips, I soak Tubthem in a tub for just a minute or two.  I fill a tub with a few inches of warm water, but not enough to cover the strips.  Then I soak the strips until the soil is moist.  Once they’re moist, I pick them up to drain, then set them on a big tray.  For this, I use a huge sheet pan that was my grandmothers, covered in foil to cut down on clean up later.

The next trick is critical for me.  I cover the whole thing with plastic wrap.  This basically creates the same environment as if you got one of those kits in the store that comes with the clear plastic cover.  You’re creating a little greenhouse to start the seeds off right.  The plastic will start to get little drops of water, and that’s how you know it’s working.  The water is staying in and not evaporating.  This also should Seeds Donekeep you from having to water for a little while.  That also is a good thing.  Once the seedlings emerge, you have to be careful with watering to not disrupt the tender plant or create any kind of mold or fungus that could kill the very delicate seedlings.  Once the plastic is covering them, I set the whole thing in a warm, sunny spot and wait for the growth!

Before you know it, it will be time to plant outside!

Ordering Seeds and Getting Ready for SPRING!

I had a glimmer of hope for spring this week, and now I just can’t let it go.  I was in Austin at a conference for work, and while it wasn’t as warm as it could be in Texas this time of year, it was in the 60s, and it made me excited for spring…even after I came back to the snow.  But spring is coming, and if it’s coming, for me, that means planning for the garden and ordering seeds.

CatalogsI love gardening.  Whether it be flowers, trees, shrubs, vegetables, it doesn’t matter, I just love to play in the dirt, as I like to say.  And when those catalogs arrive (see my post from January for more on that), I get so excited about the possibilities.  The most exciting for me at this time of year is the vegetable garden, because I basically start from scratch every year.  While there are some perennials people may have (like rhubarb or asparagus), I don’t have any in my vegetable patch.  I get to reconfigure every year, and last week, that’s just what I did. 

Fava BeansMy first step was figuring out what I wanted to plant this year.  Sure, I have the staples every year, tomatoes, lettuces, zucchini, and squash.  But this year, I wanted to try a few new vegetables.  I love beets and kale, and especially fava beans, so I’m adding those to the mix this year.  And I’m giving Brussels sprouts a try (mainly because I love them).  The next step was figuring out the varieties.  If you’re used to picking up plants at your local garden center, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to play with different varieties.  Sure, there were probably many Listvarieties of tomatoes, and maybe even one or two heirlooms, but aside from that, many garden centers just carry one variety of other vegetables.  That’s one of the reasons why I like to start from seed.  When you open those seed catalogs, there are so many different varieties, it’s amazing.

This year, I decided to get my vegetable seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I really wanted to focus on heirloom varieties this year, and I’ve heard great things about their seeds from a friend of mine (who also blogs, but, unfortunately for me, it’s in French…Le Hamburger et le Croissant).  If you haven’t seen their site or catalog, Baker Creek has a great variety, and their catalog is beautiful.  The vegetables and plants are expertly photographed.

GraphThe next part, and for me one of the most fun, is planning out the layout.  I’ve found the easiest way to plan out the garden is to use graph paper.  Just figure out your dimensions and use some sort of scale.  I used one block for one foot in the garden.  Then go through and plot out your garden.  Pay special attention to any light restrictions (mine is all in the sun, so that wasn’t an issue) but also how far something spreads, if they are vines, etc.  Once you have this map, it’s so much easier to get out there and actually plant in the next few months.

I don’t know about you but I’m excited.  My seeds are already on their way, and I’m looking forward to starting them indoors.  I’ll probably write about that in another week or two.  Oh, and if you’re interested in what I purchased, here’s what I chose:

  • Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto Fava Bean-SKU: FB105
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet-SKU: BT110
  • Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts-SKU: BS101
  • Marketmore 76 Cucumber-SKU: CU101
  • Astrakom Eggplant-SKU: EG174
  • Birdhouse Gourd-SKU: GD108
  • Tronchuda Kale-SKU: KA107
  • Sugar Snap Pea-SKU: SN106
  • Caserta Squash-SKU: SSQ138
  • Rouge Vif D’ Etampes Pumpkin-SKU: SQ118
  • Boston Marrow Squash-SKU: SQ221
  • Brandywine Tomato-SKU: TK115
  • Zucchini-Lungo Bianco Squash-SKU: SSQ119

Happy gardening (or at least thinking of gardening if you’re still dealing with snow on the ground like we are)!

 

It May be Freezing Out But Start Thinking about the Garden!

I don’t know about you, but here, outside of Philadelphia, we’ve been getting slammed this winter.  We’ve had tons of snow, crazy wind and wind chills, and even the polar vortex, whatever that is!?!?  But, in the midst of the snow, ice, and frozen limbs, the winter is a great time to start thinking about your garden!

Martha Stewart GardeningWhen I was in my early twenties, I was thrilled to get my first gardening book.  I had always loved to garden, having spent tons of time with my grandmother, helping her care for her immaculate roses (I still can’t get mine, or even hers, to perform as amazing as she did), and I took over my parents’ landscaping when I was in high school.  But I needed to better understand design, when to do certain things, and even what type of flowers were available.  So, for my 21st birthday, my parents gave me Martha Stewart’s Gardening: Month by Month, an absolutely beautiful book that shows month by month what Martha does in, and can expect from, her garden.  And right away, I was hooked.  I know what you’re thinking, what 21 year old boy wants a gardening book, let alone Martha Stewart’s, but I was, am, and always will be a huge fan.  What can I say, “it’s a good thing!”

There were so many great ideas in that book.  I think my favorite part was the sources section in the back, where I now had the names, addresses, and phone numbers (remember, we’re talking 1996, sadly there were no websites) of amazing providers of mail order plants, trees, and seeds.  I immediately called those companies and got on the mailing lists, and I’ve been on their mailing lists ever since.  The beautiful thing is, usually around late December, early January, they send you these wonderful catalogs and you can get lost dreaming about the garden, even with a foot of snow outside.  The catalogs have proven to be invaluable for inspiration on different varieties, and often times, the plants are incredibly cost effective.  They have so much more than your local Home Depot (I can only have so many black eyed susans, daisies, and standard hydrangeas).  Below are a few links to some of my favorite companies, but really, if you haven’t yet, look online, find some good suppliers, and give it a try.

My Garden LogOne other thing I did, taking direction from Martha of course, was I started to keep a garden log, noting how things were progressing in the garden.  This proved to be invaluable.  So many years, I’ll remember I planted the pumpkins too early, or the frost took those tender annuals, but I can’t remember exactly when I planted them and how I should adjust.  Keeping a quick log is so helpful to plan for the following year.  If you don’t do it, you should try.  It doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult.  Just jot down some notes, and date it.  I’ll admit, I haven’t done it in years, but this year, I’m starting again (thanks to a little encouragement from Grow Tend Cook Eat).

Martha's Garden SketchSo, grab some catalogs, or your tablet/laptop, curl up with a blanket, maybe a drink, dream about the garden, and start planning.  And if you happen to have Martha’s book, or come across it, definitely take a look at the inside cover.  I fell in love with the sketches of her amazing property…and I have to admit, I still try to create similar sketches of my garden today, although mine are no where near as beautiful as hers.  Of course, I don’t have half a billion dollars to support it and a staff of who knows how many, but I can dream!