Zoodles with a spiral slicer

I finally purchased a Paderno spiralizer slicer and it has been a wonderful addition to my kitchen tool collection.  My three blade slicer is able to cut vegetables very quickly into angel hair noodles, shoestrings and even spiral cut strands.  My first attempt at using the tool was extremely successful, as I made zucchini noodles in place of pasta one evening for dinner.

I sautéed the zoodles with some sliced mushrooms, seasoned with black pepper and parsley flakes in one tablespoon olive oil. I cooked the zucchini noodles until soft and served with pasta sauce.  The noodles were extremely tasty, and confirm the recent enthusiasm from many chefs for using this spiral slicer.

I will be experimenting with apples, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers in the coming months. The slicer is an interesting way to prepare and cut these foods for appealing presentation and to increase food excitement.

For more information on this slicer, it can be purchased online at Williams Sonoma cookware.

Seed Season

My mailbox is full of gardening catalogs and the excitement of spring and summer is almost here.  So many new ideas every year are contained in these great publications.  Yes, there is something to actually having a printed catalog in hand, when searching for my lettuce seeds for my summer kitchen garden. Most often, I am reading and learning from the various companies as they showcase their products.

I love to shop these catalogs and complete a bit of research on the types of seeds that might work best in my short season Michigan garden.  I know that my yard does not have the greatest and longest sunny exposure, so I am always careful to choose seeds that will grow to maturity within the summer months.

This year, I will grow a variety of mesculun salad leaves and other lettuce mixes. In years past, I have had great success with lettuce in my garden. And fresh garden lettuce is so spectacular, that it is hard to compare to anything found in a market.  For this reason, I think everyone should have a small kitchen garden. So satisfying!

Thanksgiving turkey tray

For an afternoon holiday appetizer tray, I found this cute idea on Pinterest. If you haven’t found Pinterest yet, I highly recommend the website as a great way to find ideas for just about anything.  I have tried many great recipes on the site, and have saved more than 11,000 pins so far into various boards. Find me on Pinterest under my name.

Here is my version of an appetizer tray that I served on Thanksgiving day.  It was well received by my family. It was a cute way to serve a very basic appetizer while everyone was waiting for the main event. The relish tray is arranged in the shape of a turkey.

Earlier in the day, I cut and prepared the vegetables and then just before serving, arranged them on the tray.  It was easy and fun.  And also encouraged raw vegetable eating instead of other more caloric snacks!

 

Sauteed fresh corn and zucchini

A week ago, I wanted to serve fresh corn again for dinner since it has been so tasty this year.  My husband loves fresh corn season, and sometimes I don’t feel like corn on the cob. So, I found a recipe for a saute which was simply delicious.

I used margarine instead of the butter in the dish, and it was perfect. It took about ten minutes to prepare and was a wonderful side dish for chicken that evening.  I highly recommend making this dish with fresh corn.

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Here is a recipe that I adapted from allrecipes.com from this summer.  Gather these ingredients:  1/2 stick butter, 1/2 cup diced white onion, 2 cups chopped zucchini, 3 ears of fresh corn with kernels removed, salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the margarine in a large skillet on the stove and cook the onion first.  Add the zucchini next and cook about 5 minutes.  Finally, add the corn, salt and pepper and cook for another 4 minutes until hot for serving immediately. This was a delicious side dish to serve with any meat entree.

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Tip: preserving green onions

If you are harvesting green onions or purchasing them in the market, I recently found an amazing way to store the onions in my home refrigerator.

I seem to always have an endless battle with green onions if I don’t use them promptly within a couple of days of purchase.  The green ends shrivel into weak blades of grass, and my hand-picked green onions can’t be used as I intended in many of my dishes.

So, here is the tip to keep your onions super fresh for weeks.  Yes, weeks. I unwrapped these onions after almost two weeks in my vegetable bin and they look as fresh as the day I placed them in there for storage.  Wrap in plastic straight from the garden or market. I do not wash the ones from the market at all until I use them.  Then, the secret is to wrap that plastic package in aluminum foil tightly. Total preservation.

Amazing and I know this tip will help many of you who did not know the secret.  After discarding shriveled onions for more than 30 years, I finally found the proper storage method. This method works for celery too.  I do clean the celery before storage.

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A new botanical garden

This past week we visited a new and developing botanical garden located in Traverse City Michigan.  On the grounds of the old Traverse City State Hospital farmland, the garden areas are coming together after century old buildings are being re-purposed and refurbished. On the site are plans for a variety of healing gardens, educational gardens, historical gardens, and space for a summer picnic after strolling the wooden paths.

Sustainability is used as a framework for the renovations for the property.  Our guide shared with us how recycled materials from the barn are being used as outdoor lighting. Even rainwater is being captured for gardening irrigation. The visitor center exterior has been designed to accommodate bees and butterflies.IMG_6822

I especially loved the renovations for the large barn which is used for events, as well as the walled garden in progress.  This garden is being built from the foundation of an old horse barn, and has the look and feel of an old English formal garden.

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The Traverse City community garden is also located at the Historic Barnes Park, and has grown to capacity this year with every garden plot taken by community residents. Members of the non-profit organization come together to garden and share knowledge and skill for growing produce, some of which is donated to the local food banks.

An interest in community gardening has grown in past years, as individuals have embraced the idea of increased fresh local vegetable consumption combined with the desire to increase exercise.  Gardening a plot of land to grow delicious food for a family certainly contributes to a healthy lifestyle.  And, sharing a common area in a community builds a bond with others which could last a lifetime.IMG_6817

If taking a trip to Traverse City this summer, be sure to include a visit to the Historic Barnes Park to see how this community is building and growing their resources to make something very special for all to enjoy.

For more information, please follow these links:    http://thebotanicgarden.org/

http://www.tccommunitygardens.org/

 

 

vegetable lasagna (mushroom and spinach)

Summer pasta dishes are often lighter when served during the summer months.  We prefer to eat less pasta during the summer overall, but sometimes the selection of summer vegetables encourages me to add them to even more main dishes than in the winter.  This recipe is one of my favorites when summer vegetables are ready for being the main attraction.

Here is how I made this dish:

In a large skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add these ingredients:  one medium chopped white onion, about 3-4 large carrots cleaned and chopped into smaller size pieces, and 3-4 stalks of celery diced.  After cooking down for a few minutes, add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 2 tablespoon tomato paste.  Cook together.

Next add about 15 chopped white mushrooms, which have been cleaned well.  Add salt and pepper to the mixture, while cooking at least 5 more minutes until the mushrooms cook down.  Next, add one 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Heat until all ingredients are well blended and warm.

While these ingredients are cooking, make the cheese layer for the lasagna.  I used 5 ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese, mixed with 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese, 8 ounces of ricotta cheese, one egg, and one drained and squeezed box of frozen spinach.  All of these ingredients will mix well into a bowl and be ready for the layering process.

In a large 13 by 9 by 2 inch baking dish, use some of the tomato mixture to line the bottom of the pan. Next add 3-4 no-cook dry lasagna noodles.  For the next layer, add tablespoons of the cheese mixture over the noodles and spread to form a layer.  Next add another layer of tomato sauce, and noodles, and cheese.  Layer until the ingredients are used fully. Make sure the top layer of the lasagna is the tomato sauce. For the final topping to the lasagna, I added more shredded mozzarella, fontina, and Parmesan cheese.

Baking directions:   For the first half of the baking time, cover the dish with tin foil completely.  For the second half of the baking time, remove the foil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Summer variations:  Use fresh chopped tomatoes, Use fresh spinach which has been sautéed down in a skillet prior to adding to this dish, Use fresh onions of all types, Use fresh chopped zucchini.  Many fresh herbs can be used. Some of my favorites are fresh oregano, parsley, thyme, chives and sage. A variety of mushrooms can also be used.

Cheese variations:  Fontina cheese is delicious in this recipe.  Fresh mozzarella can also be used.

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