This past weekend, J and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Boy, how time flies.
We made it a point to go back to the place where we married, an old golf resort in the Pocono Mountains — a Dirty Dancing meets The Shining ambiance, perfect for a weekend getaway with 130 of our closest friends and family. We also made it a point (okay, maybe my insatiable sweet tooth made it a point) to go back to the bakery that created our delicious red velvet and chocolate-chip layered wedding cake; we left the morning after our wedding without the customary top to freeze. Our valiant effort to salvage good luck bestowed 6 vanilla cupcakes. Sweet nostalgia.
The Sunday we returned home was a day spent cheering for our fantasy football players and toying in the kitchen. While it was a relatively warm day in Philadelphia, I couldn’t help but turn on the oven to bake something wholesome for the upcoming work week. To be fair, the “Pumpkin” in the title of this recipe is somewhat deceptive; I used the sweet kabocha squash, also known as the Japanese pumpkin, to create this simple and healthy muffin. When I uncovered the squash from my Landisdale Farm CSA share, I refrained myself from carving a frightening face into its flesh and sitting it out on our front door step. Doesn’t it look like the perfect pumpkin?
Looks like someone else is enjoying my new container garden. I’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:
- Provide a feeding station to detract them; use peanuts or cracked corn.
- Sprinkle a bit of blood meal around any new plantings.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- In a Dutch oven, cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
- Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil and pepper. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- 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!
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