Tag Archives: gardening

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

Humble Beginnings: Tomato & Peach Salad

I’ve grown tomatoes from seed.  Well, a tomato so far, a single tear-drop, appearing a bit lonely but tenaciously hanging in (ahem):

I  planted tomato and basil seeds on March 14.  The basil had always flourished, while the tomato plant came from more humble beginnings.  It suffered through a considerable amount of legginess and demanded more sunlight than my small condo could provide at times.  But once we moved, the plant refreshed, sprouting small yellow flowers in early July.  The bees had a chance to pollinate and in about 4 months, the first fruit arrived upon the spindly, but determined, stems. Continue reading

Turtles, Bees and Granola: Our Trip to North Carolina

Along Cape Fear River, Southport NC

It’s amazing how humbling it can be to set foot in another state.  I consider myself a well-educated person, having completed post-graduate work and looking forward to going back to school again one day.  Yet this past week, surrounded by some wonderful people who have lived a different lifestyle,  I realized (again) the narrow scope of my knowledge, enclosed in an urban metropolis and corporate microcosm.  When it comes to snapping turtles and carpenter bees, I’m clueless.  It wasn’t in any textbook of mine, nor in my backyard growing up – nature eludes me.

We flew into Raleigh, North Carolina a week ago, visiting family to bookend a weekend wedding in the quaint beach town of Southport, North Carolina along the Atlantic coast.  J’s cousin and his girlfriend recently moved back to Continue reading