Monday, August 31, 2009

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

8 ripe plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
8 basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Seed and chop tomatoes into small pieces. Plum tomatoes work best because they have fewer seeds and juice. Crush garlic in a garlic press or mince and add to tomatoes and stir. Remove stems from basil and chop. Add to tomatoes. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir and let sit for about 15 minutes to let the flavor develop. Serve on slices of toasted baguette.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Marinara Sauce

This is a deliciously simple summer pasta sauce. Make this with your fresh garden tomatoes as a great way to go green while going Italian. This is a great sauce to serve with Caprese.

4 Cups seeded and pureed tomatoes (overripe and slightly mushy tomatoes work best).
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed.
1-2 tbs. Olive oil
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1 tsp. salt

Chop onion finely and set aside. Seed tomatoes and process them in a food processor. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat in the bottom of a 6 quart sauce pan until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Add tomatoes, basil and salt. Increase heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve over your favorite hot pasta.


This traditional Italian appetizer is easy to prepare and makes an impression at parties. It is also delicious served with a pasta meal. Make it with fresh homegrown tomatoes and basil.

2-3 large vine ripened tomatoes
4 oz. Fresh Mozzarella
Handful of fresh basil
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Slice the tomatoes into thin slices and arrange on a platter. Slice the mozzarella into thin slices and place one slice on each slice of tomato. Roughly chop basil and sprinkle it over the tomatoes and basil. Salt and pepper the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy.

Why We Garden

The following Time article serves as a reminder of why it is so important to home grow our own produce and seek out locally grown food.,8599,1917458-1,00.html

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer Sandwiches

These European style open faced sandwiches are delicious for breakfast, lunch, or as an afternoon snack. Each sandwich starts using a single slice of European style artisan breads. I prefer to use Crumb Brothers, but and artisan bread will do. If you don't have access to artisan breads, try toasting slices of whole grain breads to use.

Tomato Sandwich:

Spread bread with a thick layer of cream cheese. Layer on slices of tomato. Dress with salt, pepper, and fresh chives. When my chives are blooming, it is beautiful and delicious to sprinkle some of the blossoms on as well.

Cucumber Sandwich:

Spread bread with a thick layer of cream cheese. Layer on slices of cucumber. Dress with a sprinkle of salt.

Tomato Pesto Sandwich:

Spread bread with a layer of home made basil Pesto. Layer on tomato slices. Dress with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Summer Squash Pesto Sandwich:

Grate your favorite summer squash. I like to use a green and a yellow variety to make these sandwiches. Spread bread with a layer of Pesto. Top with a generous amount of grated squash. Dress with salt and pepper.

Tomato Avocado Sandwich:

Using about 1/8 of a ripe avocado, spread a layer over bread. Salt lightly. Layer tomatoes on top. Dress with salt, pepper, and fresh chives.

Double Cheese Zucchini Pancakes

I created these as a variation from the Zucchini Pancakes with Mint and Feta cheese. They were delicious served with home canned apple sauce and tomato wedges.

1 medium zucchini, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
3 tbs. canola oil

Grate zucchini into a large bowl and add salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whip egg until it is thoroughly blended. Add egg into the zucchini mixture and mix to blend. Add flour and pepper. Mix again until blended. Add cheeses and mix to blend.

Pour canola oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat until oil is hot. Drop tablespoons of the zucchini mixture into the pan and flatten with the back of the spoon to make small round pancakes. Fry the pancakes for about 10 minutes and turn. Fry for about seven minutes more or until browned on the bottom. Remove and serve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Squash Soup

This is a simple soup recipe that can be made by anyone and a favorite at my house.

6 cups chopped squash: zucchini, crook neck, patty pan, or a combination of your favorite summer squashes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
5 cups of water
6 chicken or vegetable bullion cubes
Pepper to taste.

Chop squash into pieces about one inch in diameter. Saute the onions in the bottom of a stock pot over medium heat with the oil until translucent and slightly brown. Add the squash, water, pepper, and bullion. The water should just cover the squash. If the squash is not fully covered, add a little more water. Stir the soup and bring it a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the soup for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Puree in a blender or whip with a hand mixer or egg beater. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream.

1. After pureeing the soup, add about 1/3 cup cream to the soup for a creamy texture.
2. Add a tablespoon of pesto to each bowl for extra flavor.

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Yesterday morning I ventured into the garden and peeked under the leaves of my two patty pan squash bushes. I nearly screamed out loud. I had not looked there for a couple of days. But, nothing could have prepared me for the sight staring back. Twelve! Count them, TWELVE, full sized patty pans waiting to be picked. If I were a farmer, this would have been a joyful sight.
But, I live in a household where there are two people who will eat these. How am I going to use all of these before the onslaught of bitty patty pans reach full size? I tried to avert this situation this year by planting one patty pan. The second was the result of compost surprise. So, I hit the Internet and the kitchen to concoct a new recipe. Here are the results:

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash:

2 Patty Pan Squash - each about 5"-6" in diameter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese (I used Old World Swiss from Gossner's Foods)
1/4 cup Pesto
1 tsp. Salt
Dash Pepper

After washing the Patty Pans, cut a lid into the top by inserting a knife at a 45 degree angle about 1" from the stem and cutting around the stem in a circle (the same way you cut open a Halloween pumpkin). Remove the lid and cut off about 1/2 inch from the top reserving the squash. Using a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the squash leaving a shell about 1/2 inches thick. Reserve the insides. Repeat with the other squash.

Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil until it is translucent and slightly brown around the edges. In the mean time, finely chop the remaining squash or process it in a food processor. When the onions are ready, add the squash, salt, and pepper to the pan. Cook for an additional 10 min. until squash is cooked through. Add bread crumbs and pesto, stirring to fully incorporate. Add swiss cheese and stir until melted reserving a little to sprinkle on top.

Lightly coat the bottom of a 9x13 pan with olive oil. Stuff the filling mixture into the squash shells and top with the reserved cheese. Place upright in the pan and place lids off to the side. Place in an oven turned on to 350 degrees (you don't need to preheat) and bake for 30 minutes until the squash is tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from pan, place lids on top of the squash, and serve!

Side note: I looked at various other recipes for stuffed patty pan squash online. Most of them called for steaming the squash first then baking it. I found this to be a totally unnecessary step and a waste of energy. Also, other recipes called for discarding the squash insides and top. If found these to be a waste of good food and serious cuteness, so I incorporated them into my recipe.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tomato Basil Salad

A delicious way to use up come fresh, hot tomatoes from the garden and a little basil. I made this dish with dinner yesterday along with the Pesto Risotto and Grilled Baby Patty Pans.

5-6 medium ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup basil leaves - firmly packed
3 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)
Drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice the tomatoes as thin as possible. Roughly chop the basil. Toss basil, tomatoes, and onion. Generously drizzle olive oil over the salad. Add salt and pepper and vinegar if desired. Toss. Set aside for at least 15 minutes for the flavor to develop.

Pesto Risotto and Grilled Baby Patty Pans

For dinner yesterday, I tried out something new: Pesto Risotto and Grilled Baby Patty Pans. The baby patty pans are about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and can be grilled or baked whole. The Pesto Risotto does not use up a lot of garden produce itself, but it is a very complementary side dish to grilled or roasted veggies.

Pesto Risotto:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups rice (risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice, but regular long grain white rice also works)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup Pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper

Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil in a 6 quart sauce pan until translucent and slightly brown. In the mean time heat the broth in the microwave or in a separate sauce pan. Add rice and one cup broth to the onions. Stir. When the liquid is bubbly and nearly absorbed, add another 1/2 cup broth and stir. Repeat, stirring frequently, until all of the broth has been incorporated into the rice (about 20 minutes). The rice should be tender and the mixture creamy. Stir in the Parmesan Cheese, Pesto, and black pepper, serve.

Baby Patty Pans:

12 Baby Patty Pan squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Wash and trim the squash. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill on the top rack of a hot grill for about 20 minutes, turning once, until the squash are tender. Serve with Pesto Risotto.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grilled Green Beans

Last week, I came across a recipe for grilled green beans in a magazine. On Sunday, I decided to try it out; only simplified. I started out with a large handful of green beans; enough for two servings. I trimmed the beans and drizzled garlic infused olive oil over them. I then added about 1 tablespoon lemon juice and a couple of dashes of kosher salt and tossed the beans to throughly coat them. I let them sit and marinate for about 10 minutes. I them put them on the grill in a pan I made from a piece of reused tin foil. The original recipe called for a grill basket, but mine was full of grilled potato wedges. I grilled the green beans on the top rack of my barbecue for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. They were wonderful!

Cool Summer Cucumber Salad


1 large cucumber
1/4 large red onion
2/3 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 bunch fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dry
2 tbls oil
2 tbls. sugar
1 tsp salt

Slice the cucumber and onion paper thin and toss. I like to use a mandolin for this. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. Let stand 15 minutes until flavors are well combined. If you prefer a milder dressing, reduce the vinegar and add more sugar.

Easy Cucumber Salad:

1 large cucumber
Your favorite Italian salad dressing

Slice the cucumber paper thin. Toss with dressing until well coated. Serve.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pico de Gallo - Fresh Salsa

This is one of my favorite ways to make a lot of tomatoes and peppers disappear fast. Since salsa is thought of as more of a snack food instead of a health food, just about anyone will eat it; including kids. I also love taking a big bowl of this to parties or to work for a treat.

Approximately 20 medium tomatoes - under ripe orange tomatoes that are still firm taste the best
1 large onion
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large bell peppers or the equivalent in whatever mild peppers you have. I also like to use Sweet Banana Peppers
2 large Anaheim peppers or the equivalent in medium peppers
2-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and deveined and minced (optional)
Juice from 2 limes
1 bunch cilantro
Salt to taste

Finely chop tomatoes, peppers, onion, and cilantro. Crush garlic. Juice limes. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl with salt. Mix thoroughly and allow to sit for at least 15 min. for the flavors to develop. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for burritos, tacos, or chili.

Zucchini Pancakes with Mint and Feta Cheese

I sampled these today at the Downtown Farmers Market complements of Viking Cooking School. They were delicious and reminded me that I made zucchini pancakes before. Mine weren't quite as delicious as these.

2 1/2 pounds green or golden zucchini
2 large eggs
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 coup dry, unseasoned, breadcrumbs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 bunch scallions (white part and 2 inches of greens), slivered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Shred the zucchini using a grater or food processor. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 5 min. Rinse the squash and squeeze out the excess liquid. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the squash to the batter and combine. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Drop in the batter using 1/4 cup for a four inch cake. Fry over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom (about 4 minutes). Turn and brown the second side. Then, Enjoy!

Variation: Use Parmesan cheese or Cheddar cheese instead of feta and omit the mint.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Garden Vegetable Soups

Summer garden vegetables lend themselves well to fresh soups that can be eaten right away, sent to work as lunches, or frozen for later. I like to make big batches of soup so I can have leftovers. Most of these soups taste better the next day.

Taco Soup: This is a family favorite that is requested by my nieces and nephew every time they visit. I love that the vegetables and spices alone give this soup it's wonderful flavor. It is especially good when served with hot corn bread or quesadillas.


1 large yellow onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon canola oil
6 cups pureed tomatoes - overripe, slightly mushy, tomatoes provide the best flavor. (If you like, you can also add some chopped tomatoes). Or 2 cans crushed tomatoes plus water to make 6 cups
1 large bell pepper cut into long strips (or the equivalent in other mild peppers that you have on hand).
1 cup fresh chopped green beans or one can green beans
1 crook neck or yellow paddy pan squash, chopped
1 can black beans or 2 cups cooked black beans
2-3 tablespoons dried oregano or one bunch fresh oregano chopped
2-3 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup fresh corn kernels or one can corn

Saute the onions and garlic with the canola oil in the bottom of a 6 quart sauce pan over medium heat until the onions are translucent and slightly brown around the edges. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 min or until the green beans are tender. Serve topped with cheddar cheese or sour cream.

Tip: Garden tomatoes can be more acidic then canned. If the soup turns out to acidic, add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to tame.

Tip 2: Sometimes pureed garden tomatoes can be a little short on flavor when cooked into a soup. If your soup doesn't have a strong tomato base, add one can tomato sauce.

Fresh Garden Chili:

1 large yellow onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
6 cups pureed tomatoes - overripe, slightly mushy, tomatoes provide the best flavor. (If you like, you can also add some chopped tomatoes). Or 2 cans crushed tomatoes plus water to make 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
2 large bell peppers, seeded, deveined, and chopped
2 anaheim peppers, seeded, deveined, and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers; seeded, deveined, and chopped
1 bunch fresh oregano, finely chopped, or 4-5 tablespoons dried oregano
2 bunches fresh cilantro, finely chopped, or 4-5 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups corn kernals or one can corn

Saute the onions, garlic, and canola oil in the bottom of a large stock pot over medium heat until the onion are translucent and slightly brown around the edges. Add the tomato puree, peppers, oregano, salt, and cilantro. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and reduce to medium low heat and simmer for approximately 4 hours until the pinto beans are done. Add corn and simmer for 10 minutes more until corn is done. At this stage, taste the chili and add more spices if necessary.

Serve the chili topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, shredded chicken, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers, chopped avacados, pico de gallo, lime slices, or hot sauce. Serve with tortilla chips, tortillas or fresh corn bread.

Tip: Garden tomatoes can be more acidic then canned. If the soup turns out to acidic, add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to tame.

Tip 2: Sometimes pureed garden tomatoes can be a little short on flavor when cooked into a soup. If your soup doesn't have a strong tomato base, add one can tomato sauce.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer Garden Veggie Pastas

There is one dish that my family can't get enough of: Pasta. Over the years, I have come up with some fun and delicious pasta recipes using fresh produce from my garden.

Pomodoro: This fresh and fun pasta sauce is one of my favorites to eat in the summer, especially when I can get fresh tomatoes from the garden still hot from the summer sun.

5-6 medium ripe tomatoes
1 Handful of fresh basil
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil

Finely chop the tomatoes and basil. Mix together with crushed garlic, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve over hot pasta topped with parmesan cheese.


My basil plants always get out of control this time of year. The answer? Pesto. This fun sauce can be served at room temperature over hot pasta, as a zesty sandwich spread, or as a pizza sauce. I have also added a tablespoon to tomato soup to liven it up. I like to make my pesto with walnuts instead of the traditional pine nut. But, you can use pine nuts if you prefer.

2 cups fresh basil firmly packed
2-4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Remove large stems from basil and make sure you have a full two cups without stems. Pack basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and salt in a food processor. Turn on the food processor on high and blend while drizzling in the olive oil. Allow food processor to run until the pesto reaches a smooth consistency. Enjoy!

Tip: I have found that my pesto will stay good in the refrigerator for months. Just allow to come to room temperature before using.

Fired Pasta: This is a family favorite dish inspired by Noodles and Company pasta dishes. This fun pasta works best when fired in a wok, but a large frying pan will do as well.

1/2 medium yellow onion
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbls. olive oil
6 cups fresh cooked pasta. I have found that penne pasta works best for this.
2-3 cups fresh garden veggies and herds: fresh tomato, fresh basil, fresh oregano, summer squash, eggplant, green beans, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, olives, or whatever sounds good to you.
1/2 to 1 cup marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until they are translucent and slightly brown. Add the veggies according to cooking time. Add fresh pasta to the pan with veggies that take about ten minutes to cook. Toss pasta frequently, but allowing the noodles to toast a little. When the vegetables are fully cooked, add some of your favorite marinara sauce and toss to just coat the noodles. Enjoy.

Variations: Instead of adding marinara sauce, try roasted red pepper sauce, red wine vinegar, white wine or champagne vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or cream. Cream is a good complement to marinara sauce. But, don't use cream with vinegar.

Grilling with Fresh Garden Vegetables

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to grill. I have tried to cook just about anything that I can on my backyard barbecue. I love grilling in the summer, not only because it makes my food delicious, but it keeps my house cooler. But, one of my favorites is grilling fresh garden veggies. Here are some recipes:

Grilled Corn on the Cob: Alright, so I didn't grow my own corn. I bought it at the Downtown Farmer's Market. But, here is how I grill it: 1) Pull back the corn husks and remove the corn silk. Do NOT remove the husks. Instead, pull them back up. 2) Soak the husks fully immersed in water for at least 20 minutes. I find that I get the best results if I soak the corn for about 1 hour. 3) Remove the husks from the water and place on the grill without letting the excess water run out of the husks. Turn the corn about every five minutes. The husks will dry out, turn brown, and then start to burn. That is when they are done. 4) Carefully pull of the husks and enjoy.

Grilled Veggies: There are a wide variety of veggies that you can grill. I love to grill zucchini, crook neck squash, patty pan squash, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and eggplant. Here is how I do it: 1) Cut veggies into pieces that are large enough not to fall through the grill. For smaller veggies, it helps to kabob them or use a grill basket. 2) Brush veggies with italian salad dressing (Wishbone Italian Salad Dressing is my favorite) on both sides and place on the grill. 3) Grill for approximately 20 minutes or until done brushing occasionally with more salad dressing. 4) Remove from grill and enjoy.

Grilled Potato Wedges: I also got the beautiful potatoes pictured above from a little kid and his grandpa at the Downtown Farmer's Market. But, potato wedges on the grill can round out your grill cooked meal. Here is how I made them. 1) Wash and quarter potatoes. 2) Drizzle enough olive oil over them to coat. 3) Add salt, garlic powder, and paprika and stir to completely coat. 4) Place in grill basket on barbecue and stir frequently until potatoes are fully cooked (about 1 hour). 5) Remove and enjoy.

Happy Grilling!

Using your fresh garden produce.

Like many of you this August, my garden is running over with fresh produce. I have zucchinis, eggplant, basil, dill, carrots, about 10 types of peppers, green beans, chives, cucumbers, mint, peppermint, crook neck squash, and tomatoes, tomatoes and tomatoes. And that is just in the vegetable garden. I also have two red currant bushes and an apricot tree full of fruit. I have been pulling out old recipes and coming up with new ones to use my garden produce. So, I have decided to tell you what I am cooking to give you ideas on how to use summer's bounty.

Red Currant Jam

My family has two large red currant bushes that were filled with fruit this year. So, I decided to make one of our favorite, old world, delicacies: Red Currant Jam. This is how I made it:

First, I sorted the currants and removed leaves, stems, and icky currants. I then washed them throughly. I then had about 4 cups of fruit for my jam.

Next, I placed the currants in a pan and added 1/2 cup water and about 2 tbls. lemon juice. I add lemon juice to all of my jams, whether the recipe calls for it or not, because it is a natural flavor enhancer, preservative, and prevents botulism from forming.

I then brought the fruit mixture to a boil and then reduced it to simmer for 15 min. The fruit mixture had formed mostly a juice. I crushed some of the currants with a potato masher, added 2 1/4 cups sugar, and simmered for another 20 min. until set. I then filled my jars and topped with my heated lids. I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 min.

When I was done, I had five half pints of amazing Red Currant Jam. Time to bake some biscuits!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Apricots in Abundance

This year we have apricots in abundance. However, we have enough canned apricots and apricot jam to last for years. Trying to be eco and budget conscious, I have been trying to use up them up rather then letting them go to waste. Last sunday, I made frozen yogurt pie with some of them. This recipe is originally from my aunt, Ilse Ehlert. It is excellent with any type of stone fruit or berry.

Frozen Yogurt Pie

2 small yogurts; either plain or the flavor of the fruit you are using.
1/2 cup mashed fruit
8 oz. cool whip

Graham Cracker Crust:

3 small pkg graham crackers
4 tbls. butter or margarine melted
2 tbls. sugar (optional)

Crush graham crackers until they are fine crumbs and pour them into a 12" pie plate. Mix sugar with the graham cracker crumbs. Pour in the melted butter or margarine and mix with crumbs until thoroughly coated. Gently press the graham cracker mixture onto the pie plate to for a crust.

Mix all of the filing ingredients together and pour into the graham cracker crust. If you are using store purchased graham cracker crusts, you will have enough filling for two pies. Freeze the pies for 45 min to 1 hour before serving.

I think that next time I use this recipe, I will try substituting whip cream for the cool whip. It should turn out and cut out all the corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives.

Fresh Apricot Jam:

This morning I made some fresh apricot jam to eat on our toast. This would also be an excellent topping for pancakes, waffles, or ice cream. What I did was fill my food processor with pitted apricots (about 4 cups). I then added a few squeezes of lemon juice (2-3 tbls) and about 1/2 cup sugar. I blended the mixture until it was a smooth consistence. It was fabulous!

Apricot Pork Chop Glaze:

Last Sunday, I made a fabulous, asian inspired, apricot pork chop glaze. I started with about 1 cup of pureed apricots. To that, I added about 1 tbls. ground ginger, 1/8 cup chopped fresh chives from my garden, 1-2 tbls. soy sauce, 1 clove crushed garlic, and a bunch of brown sugar. I brushed it over pork chops while I was grilling them. They turned out really yummy.