If you follow my blog posts, you already know a lot about me, my family and my crazy life. Something that you may not know about me though - I'm a gardener want a be. I dream about transforming my yard into a beautiful Italian garden with prolific fruit trees, lush plants, beautiful flowers and amazing water features. A tranquil place where I can sit down with a good book and drink giant cups of herbal tea.
There are just a few obstacles standing in my way of creating my dream garden. For starters my yard is absolutely chock full of rocks. Mixed with our Georgia red clay, our ground more closely resembles cement than a nutrient rich soil ideal for planting. I also possess zero pruning ability but that doesn't stop me from going all Edward Scissor Hands on my plants. We also don't have the Mediterranean climate required to grow olive groves and grape vines. It's truly amazing that any of my plants survive both me and the terrible planting conditions.
My gardening has been especially frustrating this summer because I was forced to uproot and move close to 100 plants in order to save them from our septic catastrophe. Needless to say, maintaining the plants in spite of the complete demolition of our yard proved to be quite a challenge. I would hate to even add up the number of hours that I spent hand watering all of my precious plants.
I am happy to report that after 3 months of living without any grass or irrigation system, we now have new sod and working sprinklers! Woohoo. I never thought I'd be so happy have grass that needs to be mowed.
I was so preoccupied with all of my newly transplanted plants this year that my garden had to take a back seat. I put in a watermelon plant, a cucumber and a couple of pepper but that was it for my vegetables (and fruit) this year. In years past, I've also planted a couple of tomato plants, an eggplant and a few more herbs to my summer garden. I decided that sacrificing a few vegetables to spend more time taking care of my plants this summer was worth it. I've learned to shop the farmers markets for my fresh produce this summer which has been a great experience. The radishes, the cilantro, the corn and the cherry tomatoes for my Black Bean Tostadas all came from my local farmers market and I've got to say - they were amazing.
Black Bean Tostadas
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 red onion, sliced into 1/2" rings
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 ears, corn
1 1/2 cups refried black beans
6 1/2 Tablespoons salsa
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups spring mix
8 ounce bag haricots verts, cooked
1 cup cherry tomatoes
8 tostada shells
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
2.5 package plantain strips
1/2 chopped fresh cilantro
Top with sliced avocado, plantain strips and 1 T. cilantro.
Hey local friends, where are you favorite farmers markets close to Monroe, Georgia? I love the Monroe farmers market but I'm looking for followers who can give me feedback on the markets in Grayson, Lawrenceville or Loganville. If you have a favorite between Atlanta and Athens, send me a comment so I can check it out.
Do you live in a house divided? You know what I mean --- vegetarians and carnivores that are co-habitating? As a part time vegetarian who lives with a very devoted meat eater I can attest to the fact that it can be difficult to make meals that are pleasing to both of us.
This loaded vegetarian tortilla soup is perfect for vegetarians (obviously) and with the simple addition of some shredded rotisserie chicken - it quickly becomes a meal that Ben loves as well.
Loaded Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipolte chili pepper
14 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 Tablespoon oil
2 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add beans and corn.
Divide among 4 bowls. Top with avocado and add a few tortilla strips to each bowl. Add a squeeze of lime juice and serve.
Add a few handfuls of shredded rotisserie chicken to the remainder of the soup if you like.
Ladle into bowls and serve with sliced avocado and tortilla strips.
It never fails that we have 3 or 4 days of cold weather in a row so I plan a soup night and suddenly the temperatures spike into the 60's. Seriously, if I start craving warmer weather and sunshine, all I need to do is make a giant pot of soup. Even though we ate this soup with the door open to cool down the kitchen, it was delicious. This recipe is definitely worth a second look.
I am totally jumping on the spaghetti squash bandwagon. I am such a big fan of those little yellow gourds that I toss one into my cart almost every time I see them at the grocery store.
I have to admit that I wasn't an instant fan. The first few times that I tried to make spaghetti squash I pretended it was spaghetti, covered it in marinara sauce and needless to say, I was less than impressed. My brain was telling me that I was eating squash but I wanted it to have the same texture and consistency as pasta. My conflicting feelings led to a less than satisfying spaghetti squash experience.
Once I finally convinced my brain that it was acceptable for spaghetti squash to resemble pasta but be completely different in taste and texture, I was on board. Now some of my very favorite dinners are based on Spaghetti Squash. If you're a fellow spaghetti squash fan, you have to check out my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna and Southwest Spaghetti Squash recipes. You will also love this Spaghetti Squash Scampi recipe. It's super easy - and delicious.
I've made so much spaghetti squash that I've finally started to perfect my squash roasting techniques. For one thing, I've learned recently that if I cut it into rings before roasting instead of slicing it in half, I end up with longer, more appealing "spaghetti" strands. Check out this recipe for details on that.
Spaghetti Squash Scampi
1 spaghetti squash
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
1/4 crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces shrimp, peeled
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Carefully scrape out squash strands.
Add spinach and toss until wilted. Add squash and sprinkle with salt.
Serve with Naan bread.
Dial up the heat by adding more red pepper flakes to your scampi. Ben and I ate an entire squash for dinner and normally we only eat about a quarter of the squash a piece. I guess that's a sign that this recipe is a keeper. Hope you enjoy!
New York City and Chicago are the pizza capitols of this country - and I was fortunate enough to grow up smack dab in the middle of them. There is no doubt that the city of Cleveland benefitted from and was influenced by pizza makers in both cities. In my humble opinion, Cleveland boasts some pretty fantastic pizza.
Despite all of the incredible pizzerias, my favorite pizza to eat when I was growing up was my mom's homemade pizza. My mom was by far the best pizza maker in town. She always baked her pizza on a rectangle cookie sheet and cut it into slices with kitchen scissors. (The true Italian way. LOL)
I will never be able to make pizza like my mom, but I do like to carry on the tradition of making homemade pizza for my family. We all like homemade pizza night. Everyone gets involved in the process: rolling dough, slicing toppings, sprinkling cheese, spreading sauce. Most of the time we end up with a half and half pizza.
I created this pizza to be just a little bit healthier than my usual thin crust pizza. A little parsley, whole wheat flour and tomato juice really pumps up the flavor of the crust. I loved the added nutrients in the dough but more importantly, we all loved the flavor of this pizza so much that the three of us ate the entire pie for dinner.
Veggie Pizza with Herbed Tomato Crust
1/2 cup whole wheat flour Toppings
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley 8 ounce can pizza sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped 1 bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon active dry yeast 1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 teaspoon pepper crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups flour
Arrange toppings over sauce and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake 25-30 minutes at 400. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
My mom still makes homemade pizza for us when we go to her house for a visit. She is STILL the best pizza maker in town. My pizza will never compare to hers so I don't even try to make her version. This is a pretty tasty homemade pizza though - you really need to give it a try.
I realize that I'm a little late on the draw but since this is my first post of the new year - I will officially wish you a Happy 2018!
I sincerely hope that you all had a wonderful and safe holiday season. I feel like December was somewhat of a glittery whirlwind at my house this year but I still enjoyed every minute of it.
Part of the reason for all of the busyness was the fact that we embarked on our first ever - "destination Christmas" in Lake Tahoe. It turned out to be an amazing adventure and all of the craziness and preparation that it took to make the trip happen was totally worth it. Lots of great family time and lasting memories made.
We left for our Christmas adventure just 2 days before Christmas and arrived home on the New Year's Eve. Unfortunately a misdirected suitcase led to a later than anticipated arrival back at home which meant that there was very little time to get ready for a New Year's Eve party.
We had a small gathering to ring in the new year and fortunately, I had prepped some easy appetizers and put them in the freezer before we left. Cocktail meatballs, stuffed mushrooms, a cheese plate and salsa with chips turned out to be a perfect New Years Eve dinner. A full day of traveling kind of threw us off our regular eating schedule anyway.
I whipped up a batch of these cute little cranberry brie bites to add to our menu as well. They were super easy to make and I was able to buy and store all the ingredients before we left for our trip so no last minute grocery store trip was needed.
Cranberry Brie Bites
Bake 8-10 minutes at 400.
Spending the evening playing games with my family while snacking on yummy appetizers is a perfect way to spend New Year's Eve, don't you think? Sometimes, last minute parties are the best parties.
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