Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Fall Garden

I've planted my first ever fall garden this year!

I absolutely adored my summer garden. Well, I should say I'm still adoring parts of it. Even now, the tomatoes and peppers are coming in like crazy. I can't believe I'm still processing bowls full for tomatoes and it's October! It will be all over when the first freeze comes, but until then I'm savoring every moment knowing I won't taste another fresh tomato until next June.  

The fall garden is a complete lesson in trial and error. Not only have I never planted during this season to know how the change in weather will impact the crop, I've never planted a single item that I'm giving a shot this year. 

Turnips, carrots, kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts are all getting a go in the garden. The kale is already coming in like a champ and nearly ready for harvest. I've already planted several more rows to keep the abundance coming. The turnips are similarly coming in beautifully. My biggest debate is whether to top them and use the turnip greens now while they're tender, or to let them chug along with the root until it's ready to come up out of the ground. Any advice from you experts out there?

The carrots, spinach and Brussels have been another story. The Brussels are spotty at best, but since they take forever to come up and are at their peak when it frosts, I'm keeping patient. The carrots are painfully slow and painfully difficult to determine whether they're even coming in or not. And the spinach in my deck planters, well, the damn squirrels have already dug up half of it burying nuts. On a positive note, the bunnies that annihilated my spring garden have not come back, so I'm thoroughly enjoying seeing each little row of veggies sprout without disturbance. Maybe I should have put the spinach in the main garden...

Despite the ongoing roller coaster of "will it or won't it work," the thought of having a functioning garden and fresh produce in my yard well into November and maybe even December brings me an insane amount of pride and joy. And with a freezer stocked full of summer veggies to enjoy through the winter, it makes every hour of work, every sweat-drenched and dirt-laden outfit, and every mosquito bite (and there were LOTS of bites this year) all 100% worth it.

Are you gardening this fall? If so, what are you growing and how's it going? Any tips you can share with a fall garden novice?
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thai Peanut Summer Squash Pizzas

Ok, I promise this is the last of the grilled flat bread pizzas for awhile. I warned you that I was obsessed!

This one was another total steal from Coastal Living. Seriously, I love that magazine. Now if I could just figure out a way to live on the coast...

I realize that it's no longer summer now, so the reference to summer squash isn't exactly seasonal. For those of you whose zucchini and yellow squash plants are still pumping away, this is an awesome one to use up the abundance. If you're like me and your squash plants crapped out weeks ago, feel free to sub in fall squash varieties or even firm tofu. Or just buy some zucchini at the grocery store. I won't judge.

Either way, prepare to love this recipe.

Thai Peanut Summer Squash Pizzas
Recipe from Coastal Living, June 2014

1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 1/2 tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
1/8 tsp salt
Peanut-Ginger Sauce (recipe below)
1 package fresh pizza dough
2 c. shredded mozzarella
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 c fresh mung bean sprouts or 1/2 c very thinly sliced baby bok choy
1/3 c shredded carrot
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp chopped dry-roasted peanuts

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Slice zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into 6 slices. Brush with 1 1/2 tbsp oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill 2 min. on each side or until tender. Dip in Peanut-Ginger Sauce to coat; set aside squash and remaining sauce.

Shape dough into 2 or 4 crusts. Brush both sides with remaining 2 tsp olive oil. Grill 3-5 min, flip crusts, and top with 1 c mozzarella cheese, reserved grilled squash and zucchini, and remaining 1 c of cheese. Grill, covered with grill lid, 4 min or until crust is cooked through and cheese melts.

Place pizzas on cutting board and top with green onions and next 4 ingredients. Drizzle with remaining Peanut-Ginger Sauce. Serve immediately .

Peanut-Ginger Sauce
3 tbsp creamy natural peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp chili-garlic paste or sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until well blended.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grilled Asparagus Flat Breads

This recipe was the first one that launched my obsession with grilled flat breads. I LOVE Coastal Living magazine. Mostly because I'm uber jealous of anyone who lives on the water, but also because I can totally identify with the lifestyle and the food featured in the magazine. I now flip right to the recipe pages when it arrives just because there is always something tasty, fresh and light to try.

When asparagus was in season in the spring, I made this at least once a week. My husband and I literally craved it. Now that asparagus is back in stores as the weather cools, we're hitting this recipe hard again to enjoy those last little stalks before it all turns to root veggies for late fall and winter.

Grilled Asparagus Flat Breads
Adapted from Coastal Living magazine

1 lb. asparagus
1/4 c. olive oil
1 package Trader Joe's pizza dough
1 c. part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 - 1/2 c. pesto sauce
Salt to taste

Drizzle asparagus with 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil and a few pinches of salt. Grill over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until tender and lightly charred.

Roll out your pizza dough into four small rounds or rectangles. Brush each round on both sides with remaining olive oil. Grill over medium heat for a few minutes per side until puffed up and browned.

Spread pesto sauce on dough. Top with asparagus and dollups of ricotta cheese and grill for another 3-5 minutes until heated through and cheese softens.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Grilled Chicken With Basil Dressing

After a very slow start to the season, my little planter of basil went insane and gave me massive quantities of basil. It's still out there on the deck going strong. I have pesto for days.

In my quest this summer to try to find creative ways to use up all the abundance of veggies and herbs I was blessed with, I stumbled across this little gem from Giada De Laurentiis. I made some modifications. The original calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken, but we prefer grilling boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they are so simple and cook up evenly. Also, I've reduced the salt by quite a bit as the original recipe called for entirely too much. Feel free to adjust to your tastes.

Grilled Chicken With Basil Dressing
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

2/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/2 tsp, fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Whisk 1/3 cup of oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a resalable plastic bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, lemon peel, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until smooth. Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the chicken until just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to serving plates, drizzle with the basil sauce and serve.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Roasted Tomato Flat Breads

All summer long I've been trying to find creative ways to use up my tomatoes. I literally eat them by the handfuls just to keep the huge fruit bowl of them looking manageable. In September, the tomatoes are still going like gangbusters, so the madness marches on.

Grilled flat breads were my summer obsession this year. I'll share a few more variations in the weeks ahead just to get your creative juices flowing. They are one of the easiest and tastiest ways we've found to use up our garden veggies this year, and because we grill them, they're super flavorful and fun.

If you've got a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, like me, this recipe is a great way to use up at least a pint of them.

Tip: We stock up on the Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough to make these super simple. TJ's offers white, whole wheat and herb. At just a little more than a $1, it's super affordable. Just grab several and freeze until you're ready to use.

Roasted Tomato Flat Breads

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 package Trader Joe's pizza dough
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/4 pesto sauce
Fresh basil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut tomatoes into halves. Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil, maple syrup and a few pinches of salt. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up, and roast for 45 minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, roll out your pizza dough into four small rounds or rectangles. Brush each round on both sides with remaining olive oil. Grill over medium heat for a few minutes per side until puffed up and browned.

Spread pesto sauce on dough. Top with mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes and fresh basil and grill for another 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm back!

Did you miss me? Ok, you probably forgot all about me. I don't blame you. Life is busy.

Way back at the beginning of the year I talked about how I wanted to spend the year investing in things that brought me the most joy: working in the garden, learning to bake bread and put up food for the winter, and simplifying life. Well, my very demanding job got in the way of a lot of that, but when it didn't, that's what I was spending my free time doing. And blogging simply could not be squeezed on to that list.

Now after seven months of going completely silent, I'm finally ready to dive back in. Life is still busy and I'm still focusing my energy on the above items, which have brought me immense joy and a new found sense of purpose and passion. But I'm ready to share again.

This time around, you may only see one blog post per week. It's not that I don't love you. It's just that I love actually doing the things and preparing the meals I blog about.

I hope you'll dive in again with me. Thanks for following!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wallet-watcher meals: Veggie Enchilada Casserole

Continuing with my promise of quick, easy and affordable meals, this newbie to my recipe circulation is great for its versatility.

One of the best things about veggie-based meals is that you can choose the vegetables of your family’s liking with little to no impact on the overall outcome of the dish. For example, this recipe originally called for zucchini and spinach. I swapped them out for a red pepper and black beans instead, and got rave reviews from my husband. You could easily add other options based on your tastes or the season such as a variety of peppers, winter greens, tomatoes, squash and more.

It’s hard to mess up something that’s doused in delicious enchilada sauce and cheese, so get creative with whatever is on sale to create your family’s favorite version. Enjoy!

Veggie Enchilada Casserole
Adapted from

2 tbsp. oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
4 oz. green chili peppers, diced
6 oz. black olives, sliced
2 ½ cups enchilada sauce *recommend Trader Joe’s brand
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
8 oz. Monterey jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream (optional)
Salsa (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil 9x13 inch baking dish. Add oil to skillet and brown onion, garlic and jalapeno. Add red pepper and cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add beans and corn. Cook and stir 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and add diced green chili peppers.

Dip 6 tortillas in the enchilada sauce, and place them in the prepared baking dish, overlapping as needed to cover bottom of dish. Place ½ the vegetable mixture on top of the tortillas. Top with half the cheese. Layer with another 6 tortillas dipped in enchilada sauce and the rest of the vegetable mixture. Drizzle with remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and olives. Over with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream and salsa.

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