Category Archives: gardening

Sweet Thing: Zesty Roasted Tomatoes

Here’s a post for President Clinton, who recently lost 24 pounds after switching to a plant-based diet.  More fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes; a stark contrast to his previous dietary habits that lead to major heart surgery.  As a co-founder of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation which works to help reduce and prevent childhood obesity, Mr. Clinton is leading-by-example; a message that the public can, and should, really sink their teeth into.
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Garden Gold Diggers: Meaty Tomato Sauce

Looks like someone else is enjoying my new container gardenI’m supposed to be digging up my first radish; not squirrels.

I found a burrowed hole in my pretty planted pot late last week, tearing up a few of my leek seedlings and a good portion of a somewhat well-developed radish.  And while I may have a sense of adventurism in the kitchen, my budding green thumb lacks the backbone of experience and education that supports my culinary exploits.  So I combed through the Internet and found potential remedies for invasive squirrels in the garden:

  1. Provide a feeding station to detract them; use peanuts or cracked corn.
  2. Sprinkle a bit of blood meal around any new plantings.
  3. Place 1/4-inch-wire-mesh cages over the plants.  Cover spring bulb beds with fine plastic mesh and secure it along the sides of the beds with bricks, stones or lumber.
  4. Spray burrows and damaged plants with cayenne pepper or Tabasco; for a garden bed, sprinkle cayenne pepper around the border of your garden and up and down the rows.  One recipe: combine one small bottle of hot pepper sauce, a gallon of water and 1 tsp. dish detergent.   Reapply once a week and after it rains.
  5. Keep trees trimmed above fence lines and roofs since squirrels can travel via overhead highways in the tree canopy.  By creating a break in their path, you eliminate the squirrels route into your garden. (Note the tree in the picture, below, loitering behind the deck by the containers…)

So while I ponder my next move to combat squirrels, I decided how I would use the mound of tomatoes on my countertop — some from Landisdale Farm, some a gift from our gardening neighbors (note to self: must inquire about squirrels), and some that ripened on my back porch.  A Taste of Home recipe for baked ziti served as a catalyst for this tomato sauce; a meaty, chunky, substantial sauce that can stand on its own.  I imagine this sauce can be made without the meat, but I had ground beef from Wholesome Dairy Farm, a local family farm raising pastured, grass fed cows; a recent purchase at the Skippack Farmers’ Market.

Cooking tomatoes enhances their nutritional value by increasing their lycopene and antioxidant content, so creating a tomato sauce is a great way to optimize this fruit’s health benefits.  Thankfully, the squirrels have ignored these backyard gems… knock on wood.

Meaty Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Taste of Home’s Baked Ziti with Fresh Tomatoes recipe.

For more information on how to peel and seed a tomato, check out this pictorial.  The original recipe asks for the tomatoes to be chopped, J is not a big fan of “chunks” in sauces and soups, so I did more of a mince.  Notably, he gave this recipe a thumbs up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • About 6 cups / 15 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven, cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil and pepper. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and enjoy as you’d like– use as a pasta topper, a base for your favorite chili recipe, or roll into a baked ziti like I did Saturday night to hungry (though frustrated) Penn State football fans.  Very favorable reviews all around!

Keeping it Simple: Sweet Dumpling Squash

Amidst the massive egg recall and the debate over local food math, I’m craving simplicity.  With summer vacations departed and the back-to-school frenzy afoot, the slow dwindling of daylight hours subdues my kitchen a bit.

Okay, I admit it. I don’t have any kids to cart off to Target for school supplies or worry about what to wear on the first day or pack for lunch.  While my only concern outside of the pending cooler temperatures is wondering how the changing traffic pattern may affect my work commute, this historically hectic time of year has permeated my mindset.  Back to the basics I go with this unadorned, baked Sweet Dumpling squash, courtesy of the Landisdale Farm CSA.  A tender and sweet summer send-off. Continue reading

The Thing About Surplus: Easy Peanut Pesto

A bundle of basil showed up in my CSA share this week.  I shuddered a bit thinking about that same herb growing somewhat recklessly in our backyard, used sparingly for sandwiches and seasonings.  But with an additional bundle wrapped and ready for use, I needed a recipe to quell the basil surplus.

Food surplus remains a focal point for the debate over the health of our country and our food supply.  Many experts argue that U.S. agriculture policy has promoted the overproduction of certain farm commodities, like corn and soybeans. As with most items in excess, you look for new and novel ways to use it.  For the food industry, this meant converting commodity Continue reading