Growing Things.

We went camping a few weekends ago. Of course we took Gidmaster-Fresh. I love it when Gideon comes camping because with his bed on one side and Matt’s on the other, I stay toasty and dew-free in the middle of our tent. When I woke up in the morning, I looked down to check on Gideon. This is what I saw: IMG_3888 He’s my favorite thing on the planet. It was so cute to see him tucked in under his blanket, sleepy and content. But back to the point of this post, look what I discovered today!IMG_4159Our first cherry tomato of the season. We’ve had a heat wave here recently, which I assume encouraged the sudden blushing of tomatoes. The corn, squash and beans are growing visibly taller by day. And the potatoes are loving life right now. Here is a glimpse of what we’ve got growing in the little raised bed section of our yard.IMG_4164We’re already done with broccoli and garlic, while kale, cilantro and some lettuce on their second plantings. New this year are the brussel sprouts and celery. We’ve had good luck with everything but the broccoli. This is the second year we’ve attempted it and somehow it never fully flourishes. Maybe there’s a trick I don’t know about? I was super happy with my choice to grab elephant garlic over the small cloves this year. It seemed to produce a better head of garlic more quickly.

One very cool and literally very big new thing we’ve got planted is asparagus…but more on that another time.

What are you growing? What’s flourishing? What’s ending up in the compost?

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Olive Garden Breadsticks

So, maybe you don’t want to know this recipe. It’s a guaranteed way to pack on a few pounds. These breadsticks are so delicious and taste almost exactly like the Olive Garden one’s you know so well. They’re also relatively simple. I’ve told myself I can only make them again when someone comes over to help me eat them. Anyone up for a visit?

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Olive Garden Breadsticks:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter melted
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. salt

Seasoning:

  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (Note – I thought this was too much. Next time I’ll do half the salt)
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Mixture should be frothy.

  2. In separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Add melted butter. Mix with paddle attachment of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.

  3. Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth. Do not overknead!

  4. Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour. (I like to heat my oven to 150, then turn it off…nice and warm for bread to rise in – they should double in size)

  5. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and once heated, pop in the bread sticks.

  6. Combine melted butter (or 1/2 cup margarine), garlic powder and salt.

  7. After bread sticks have cooked for 6 or 7 minutes, brush the bread sticks with half the butter mixture. Then continue to bake. Bake for 5-8 more minutes.

  8. Immediately upon removal from the oven brush the other half of the butter on the sticks (Also delicious with parmesan sprinkled on them). Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

  9. Say “Yum.”

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Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella

About half way through my day today, I thought, “Today is a great day.” I wasn’t doing anything special. I didn’t win anything. I didn’t get any mail. I didn’t have anything epic to look forward to. I was doing the same old, same old.

I literally stopped in my tracks, consciously making an effort to figure out why I was in such a great mood. I was looking out my kitchen window…when suddenly I realized what the source of my contentment was. Sun. The sunlight was streaming in through the window. My face felt warm. I went outside and sat with my chickens. Giving them each lots of snuggle time in the sunshine.

Sigh.

Then I got to feeling adventurous and hungry. When I saw this eggplant recipe a while back, I thought it looked delicious! But what the heck does eggplant taste like? If I didn’t love orzo fiercely, I might not have made it. Boy, oh boy, am I glad I did.

This dish has a wonderful lemony kick that pairs well with the chewy bits of mozzarella disbursed throughout. When I initially picked up the eggplant in the store, I thought I was going crazy. They feel like firm pillows. But I stuck to my guns. It basically has the texture of soft zucchini and a very similar taste. At least when it’s smothered with other ingredients like it is here.

You might notice that I put tomato slices on top of this dish, instead of chopping and mixing it in like the recipe calls for. Well in the original post, she gives you the option. I sprinkled oregano, salt and pepper on top of the tomato. So…do it either way!

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella

From, of course, Smitten Kitchen

1 large (mine was just over 1 1/4 pounds/570 grams) eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, in a 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces (225 grams) orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) tomato paste
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) vegetable stock
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
4 ounces (115 grams) mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 1/2 ounces (a generous 1/2 cup or 45 grams) parmesan, grated
3 medium tomatoes, diced

Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Add celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Garlic Bliss

I’m normally a very inclusive person. This isn’t a normal situation. If you have never made roasted garlic…I…I…I feel sorry for you. I wonder how we became friends. If you claim ignorance, that’s cool. Laziness = not cool.

So make this…soon…like tonight.

You take one (or multiple, like I do) head of garlic and chop off the top so the cloves are exposed. Place on foil, drizzle in olive oil. I also like to add a bit of pepper. Wrap up in the foil and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. When it’s done you can either scoop it out right onto whatever it is your eating or, like I do, squeeze all the garlic into a bowl and mash it up a bit. Then spread it on warm bread…

Come on. Live life and do it.