Sunday, May 27, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Basil Pops

3 cups fresh hulled or thawed frozen strawberries
2 Tbs chopped basil
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1) Place strawberries in a glass or plastic bowl with basil. Top with sugar and balsamic vinegar. Toss and let marinate for 1 hour.
2) Pour the marinated mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Mix well and pour into ice-pop molds. Insert sticks and freeze for about 8 hours.

Review: The recipe I loosely followed told me this would fill a set of 4 pops that each held 3.5oz of pop. I have two sets of these and this recipe filled both sets (8 pops). I'm not sure what happened, but luckily I had two sets! This recipe intrigued me because adding balsamic vinegar to frozen desserts seems to be very trendy. For these, it added a bit of tang, while the basil added a bit of spicy. Overall, I'm not "wowed" by the flavor, but I do feel a little gourmand when I eat them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


We currently rent a house with a garden lot. When we looked at the house for possible renting, back in July 2011, it was overgrown with weeds, but had a few plants (zucchini, tomatoes and basil). Instantly, I began dreaming of having a big, organic, heirloom garden. For the past few months, I have consulted many sources in order to know when to plant my seeds. However, it was consistently too cold for me to be outside in the wet dirt, so how could a baby plant possibly survive? It was also increasingly difficult to clear out all of the weeds. It had been overgrown for many, many years. It also has a significant amount of poison ivy growing in the fencing and there must be a nearby yellowjacket nest. I get swarmed by yellowjackets if I go out in the afternoon!

But, this weekend Mike and I beat back much of the overgrowth, which was aided by the fact that much of it mysteriously died on it's own in the last week. Last weekend I planted the leek and cherry tomato seedlings. Today, I planted seeds for sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, kale, carrots, cabbage and zucchini. I started basil and Brussels sprouts seeds in my kitchen window, to plant later.

Fortunately, my landlord (who was once a master gardener) stopped by this afternoon and assured me he never planted things prior to Memorial Day, though the weekend before isn't a bad idea. Oh, I was so relieved, since all of my sources told me I was two months behind!!

So, here's some pics in the garden's current state:

the whole plot, note some of it is still quite wild

I have markers set for each vegetable

I laid out paths through some of it, mostly to kill weeds without having to dig them up! There's still quite a bit of weeds in the garden, but there's enough removed that I could plant stuff this weekend.

Here are my cherry tomatoes, leeks are growing just to the left of them and cabbage is planted in the corner.

There's a little plastic pond back there, where frogs have been nesting for years. Earlier this year, it was filled with eggs and then tadpoles. I'm going to keep that area fairly wild, mostly to make it a frog habitat. To make it more enticing, I threw an entire packet of "butterfly mix" flower seeds around there.

The entire list of what I'll be growing this year (most are heirloom varieties):

Chantenay Red Core Carrots
Giant Musselburgh Leeks
Sugar Ann Snap Peas
Black Beauty Zucchini
Flamingo Pink Swiss Chard
Genovese Basil
Dwarf Siberian Kale
Black Cherry Tomato
Premium Late Dutch Flat Cabbage
Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts (not an heirloom variety)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

SouthWest Pasta Salad

1 pkg elbow macaroni or penne rigate
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup tomato salsa
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

1) cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again. In large serving bowl, combine pasta, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, avocado, cilantro and jalapeno.
2) For dressing, in small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, salsa, lime juice and salt. Add to pasta mixture; toss gently. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate to chill.

Review: I wasn't sure this was going to turn out well, as the idea of mixing mayonnaise and salsa scared me. It actually just made it taste a bit like a SouthWestern ranch dressing. It was fairly quick to make and was even better once it was refrigerated (mostly because the dressing wasn't as runny).

Adapted from:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Penne & Zucchini

8oz penne pasta
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 Tbs olive oil
1 sweet onion, such as Walla Walla or Vidalia, thinly sliced
2 medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups baby arugula
1/3 cup shredded provolone

1) Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and reserve pasta water.
2) Whisk together ricotta and 1/3 cup pasta water in small bowl; set aside.
3) Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add zucchini and garlic, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cook 3 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Stir in arugula, cover and cook 1 minute, or until arugula is just wilted. Add ricotta mixture to arugula mixture and cook 1 minute, or until hot but not boiling. Serve ricotta sauce over penne, and sprinkle with provolone.

Review: We couldn't find shredded provolone, so Mike just topped each serving with a slice of provolone. As it melted and oozed onto the dish, I realized this would be better as a casserole. I doubled the ricotta sauce and arugula, as the recipe called for portions that would have left ricotta and arugula wasting in the fridge. With the increased "sauce" and greens, it was definitely enough food to fill a casserole dish. At the minimum, it could be stuck under the broiler for a few minutes to melt and brown the cheese. While I'm pondering the possibilities of altering this recipe, I'd like to clarify that it is yummy as is. I think it could just be altered for winter months to make a more of a comfort food type of dish.

Adapted from:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fusilli Col Buco With Braised Spring Vegetables

1/2 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups dry white wine, preferably Italian
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
18oz frozen artichokes hearts, quartered
20 baby carrots, diced largely
10oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 cup frozen peas
8oz dry fusilli col buco pasta
20 basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1) Heat large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 3 to 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add thyme, red pepper flakes, wine, broth and lemon juice, then stir in artichokes, carrots and mushrooms. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add peas and cook, covered, 5 minutes or until peas are tender and bright green.
2) Meanwhile, cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
3) Add braised vegetables to pasta and toss to combine. Add just enough vegetable-braising liquid to achieve preferred sauciness. Stir in basil and Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Review: Wow, this had SO much sauce!! I could have easily used only 1 cup of wine. Also, I used rotini, as Mike has wanted whole grain pasta lately and the selection is limited. Overall, this was a great dish. The vegetable variety was good and the sauce had a nice tang, with a bit of heat (I may have used too many red pepper flakes). I also loved that I finally found frozen artichoke hearts, despite years of looking. Trader Joe's saved me and I found the artichoke hearts to be MUCH more tender than the canned varieties. I only had two leaves that weren't edible, compared to the twenty that I usually have to contend with!

Adapted from:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Basil Lemonade

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1) Bring basil leaves, sugar and 2 cups water to a boil in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and bruise basil leaves. Simmer 5 minutes without stirring. Strain, pressing on basil to remove liquid. Cool.
2) Pour basil syrup into large pitcher. Stir in lemon juice and 4 cups of water. Transfer to refrigerator and chill well. Serve over ice.

Review: This recipe said basil was one of a few options. This can also be made with rosemary, sage or thyme. Interestingly, this was also supposed to use 4 cups of basil. Mike didn't like that idea, so I used only 2 cups and this had a very strong basil flavor. I can't imagine twice this amount! This had a sweetness that was followed up by a strong peppery kick - total basil goodness. Mike thinks it would be great mixed with gin.

Adapted from: