Cooking Ripe!

Plant it, grow it, pick it – COOK IT!


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Cooking Ripe! 2012 Review and 2013 Preview

What to do with all of those little yummies?Cooking Ripe! has moved to: CookingRipe.com – please join us on the new site!

Cooking Ripe! was launched in late August of 2012 and has had just under 3000 views so far. It’s been very exciting to get to share my garden-to-table recipes with so many people in such a short time. I’ve been learning a lot about this whole food blogging business and I am ready to take things to next level!

Coming in 2013: Cooking Ripe! will be moving to a new hosting site where we’ll have our very own domain name: CookingRipe.com. YAY! Our very own dot com address. Legit, right? With this change, you’ll notice that the blog will undergo some spiffing up and will get a new overall look. I hope to make it a little more user friendly by adding some slick tools that will make things like recipe printing and pinning a little easier. We’ll likely have a little downtime while we complete the migration process, but don’t worry – I’ll give you plenty of warning when it’s time. Stay tuned for more details on the New & Improved Cooking Ripe!

Tops in 2012: In our few short months online, I’ve had great traffic and feedback on the blog posts. Below is a list of the five most viewed posts on Cooking Ripe! in 2012. Have you tried all of these yet? If not, you better get cookin!

1. The number 1 most viewed post on the blog is Homemade Pumpkin Puree. I had a whole crop of volunteer pie pumpkins in the garden this year, so I had to learn to make my own puree. I’ll never go back to canned! It tastes so fresh and it’s so versatile. Try the many other Cooking Ripe! pumpkin recipes, too.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

2. The runner-up as the most viewed post is the Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup. I LOVE soup and LOVE orange food, and apparently my readers share my love of soup and orange since it was the second most popular post. This is a simple and creamy cold weather soup with a little ginger kick. Check out the other Cooking Ripe! soup lover recipes.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

3. Number 3 is my personal favorite, as you can tell by its title: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta – the BEST pasta you’ll ever eat! Really. You have to try this recipe if you haven’t yet. I got an eggplant in my Bountiful Basket last time and I am thrilled to get to make this recipe again this week. The Hubs doesn’t even mind repeats of this one!

Roasted Eggplant Pasta

4. One would assume this next post would have been number 1 since it includes BACON! and everything is better with bacon, right? Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with BACON! I try not to cook or eat it very often, but once in awhile you gotta live, right? Brussels sprout lovers and haters can unite to love this recipe, I promise!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

5. Last, but certainly not least in the round-up of most viewed posts is the Southwestern Green Chile and Corn Potato Chowder. Yes, another soup made the list! This one is creamy and spicy without any heavy cream at all. This is a great recipe to use up your preserved roasted green chiles and warm up on a cool night.

Hatch Green Chile and Potato Corn Chowder

Remember, you can go to Cooking Ripe’s Recipe Index for a complete list of all of the recipes. Also, if you haven’t joined me on Pinterest yet, it’s high time! And, finally – like Cooking Ripe! on Facebook to stay up to date on all blog updates and other tasty tidbits. Stay tuned for a great new year of growing and cooking!

Thank you all for your support. Cheers to a delectable 2013!


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Easy Vegetable Stock

Homemade Vegetable Stock

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One of my favorite ways to prevent food waste, save money and improve the nutritional value of my recipes is to make my own homemade vegetable stock. If you’re like me, you buy cans or cartons of veg and/or chicken stock to have on hand to make soup, stews and other recipes. I like to use both in place of water to add flavor to all sorts of thing including rice, quinoa, potatoes and other veggies and when cooking meat. But, it seems that a lot of those prepared stocks contain loads of sodium and a lot of those other unpronounceable chemicals so they’re not as wholesome as we might think. Yes, there are some nice organic varieties, but they are usually pretty spendy, so why not make it a home using our own leftovers?

It’s so simple, I can’t believe I wasn’t doing it sooner. I wish I could take credit for the simple idea, but I learned it from this post on Simple Bites.  I follow her quickie version and make a new batch of stock about once a month.

I compost a lot of my kitchen waste, but sometimes my compost pile can’t keep up with my new scraps, so I learned to keep some large freezer bags in my extra freezer. Each time I cook and have some veg scraps, I set them aside as I’m chopping and cooking, then I throw them in the freezer bag. I usually wait until I have about three full bags and then I split the scraps between two of my dutch ovens. I fill the pots with water and then bring to a boil, then simmer on the stove for about an hour or so.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Homemade Vegetable Stock

After the stock cools, I strain it using coffee filters in my colander (cheesecloth also works) and then container it for the freezer (and I must reserve some for pouring over the Hounds’ food, also).

This is Daisy, my best sous chef

This is Daisy, my best sous chef

Since I use different quantities of stock for various recipes, I freeze it in a variable quantities. I have used ice trays for when I need just a little stock, like to saute some veggies or to add a few spoonfuls to sauce or gravy. I also use muffin tins to make cup sized quantities. I use those to add to rice, quinoa, couscous, and some pastas.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Finally, I freeze larger quantities in quart-sized mason jars, or large plastic yogurt containers (usually about 32 oz). The larger quantities are perfect for soup and stews and anytime you want to boil something but add more flavor than using plain water. I LOVE making mashed potatoes by boiling the potatoes in veg stock or chicken broth. All kinds of extra flavor! When I use the ice cube trays or muffin tins, I freeze in the trays then pop them out and put them all in a large freezer bag. Then I just grab a hunk of stock from the freezer as needed.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

What kind of scraps to save for stock:

  • Stems and ends of any veggie – think of all the parts you cut off and discard from veggies like carrots, zucchini, onions, greens, etc.
  • Veggie peels, from vegetables like potatoes, carrots, eggplant, etc. (be sure to thoroughly wash before peeling so you don’t end up with gritty stock)
  • Herb stems – fresh or dried both work well
  • Seeds and inside “goop” removed from pumpkins and squash

I try to ensure that I end up with a good variety of veg parts when I put them into my pots to boil, so if one vegetable is a little bitter, like eggplant, another one will balance it with some sweetness, like carrots or sweet potatoes. The addition of leftover herb stems really pumps up the flavor of the stock like no store-bought kind you’ve had. I also personally like to ensure there are some tomato and potato parts in my stock – I’m not sure why, but I just think the stock needs those basic flavors.

Tomato canning waste made a nice stock ingredient

Tomato canning waste made a nice stock ingredient

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Leftover parts from roasted pumpkins went in my stock recently

Inner strings and seeds from roasted acorn squash is now veg stock

Inner strings and seeds from roasted acorn squash is now veg stock

The boiled waste can still be composted, if desired, so you’ll be getting double duty from those scraps – cool, right?

I hope you’ll give the homemade stock trick a try. It really doesn’t take much extra time because you can boil it while you’re doing other kitchen duties, then you just have to strain and store it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get a little charge out of making it yourself instead of buying it because you’ll know exactly what’s in it and you’ll know you took a little time to make something healthy and yummy for your family.

Related Posts:


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Homemade Fresh Italian Salad Dressing

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Tis the season for over indulgence so it’s really hard to remember to eat some healthy food occasionally. It’s also really tough to slow down long enough to make a balanced meal. But, with a little planning and some simple recipes, we can maintain some semblance of a healthy diet through the holiday season. Really! Here’s an easy dressing recipe to make and use all week long.

I always thought there was some sort of secret voodoo involved in making fresh salad dressing. I don’t know why I thought it was difficult, but it seemed like something that was unnecessarily complicated when there’s an entire aisle in the grocery store devoted to the bottled stuff – and a lot of healthy bottled varieties at that. My opinion on those bottled dressings totally changed this summer when I started trying some homemade dressings.

I had such a bumper crop of fresh lettuce I HAD to get creative with it. I figured I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of different dressings to top our plethora of greens, so I better learn to make some homemade versions. I also had some fresh herbs from the garden and also from my Bountiful Baskets, so I decided to dive in and give it a spin. I’ll never go back. Well, I tried when I was too lazy to make some dressing for a salad one night. YUCK. It just is not the same. All those…extra preservatives really do change the flavor of the whole salad.

One of my favorites this Martha Stewart recipe for Fresh Italian Dressing. I keep the basic recipe, but fiddle with the herbs and the amounts a little. The trick is in the preparation, which isn’t hard, but just something you may not know if you haven’t made your own dressing before.

Here’s how:

Gather your ingredients, so they’re all handy to make the process super quick. Start by chopping your garlic and fresh herbs. The original recipe calls for basil, oregano and marjoram. I never have fresh marjoram, so I use thyme instead. I would imagine that any kitchen herb, except maybe mint or cilantro, would work with this dressing, so don’t worry if you don’t have exactly these herbs. Can you use dry herbs instead of fresh? Sure, but use one teaspoon of dried herbs for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and know that it may not end up with the amazingly fresh taste that the fresh herbs create. Still, it will be better than the bottled stuff, so go for it. As always, I’m not that precise in my measurements with the herbs and it doesn’t seem to matter.

Left to right: thyme, garlic, oregano, basil

Next, whisk the vinegar with the garlic, sugar, mustard, pepper flakes and salt & pepper. Let’s pause and talk about the whisk itself. I bought this cool springy whisk at a yard sale recently and it’s quickly become one of my favorite kitchen tools. It is the perfect thing to get a great emulsification going with a salad dressing.

In a separate bowl, whisk the two oils together. I always feel like it’s more oil than I need, so I have cut down on both by equal amounts and it’s worked out fine, also.

Vinegar mixture on left; oil mixture on right

Ok, here’s the part you want to pay attention to because it’s the one critical step! Emulsification. Martha explains that’s when you suspend the oil in the vinegar. This happens when you slowly add the oil into the vinegar while you whisk away. If you just dump, it won’t do that suspension thing, so take a minute and slowly pour and whisk and then BAM! Emulsification happens!

Finally, whisk in the herbs and viola, it’s dressing! I like to let it sit for a few hours, if possible, before serving because it allows the flavors to develop more completely.

I make dressing so often now that I invested in this little cruet that I found on Ebay to store it. Isn’t it cute?

Homemade Fresh Italian Dressing

Yield: about 1 1/3 cup

Ingredients (directly from original recipe):

  • Two small garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh marjoram (I used thyme), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop fresh herbs and mince garlic.
  2. in a small, but deep bowl, combine and whisk together vinegar with mustard, red pepper flakes, sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and garlic.
  3. In another small bowl, whisk together the two oils.
  4. Slowly drizzle the oil into the vinegar mixture, whisking continuously until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Whisk in the herbs.

Serve immediately, or let sit for a few hours while flavors marry. Refrigerate for up to one 1 week (I have gone longer, but that’s Martha’s suggested shelf life). Be sure to give it a vigorous shake before serving.

Notes for next time:

As I mentioned above, I use less oil than called for and it works out fine. If you don’t think you’ll use up the dressing within a week, try halving the recipe. I have also added a little lemon juice to brighten it up a bit. I think I tried balsamic vinegar once and it was also very good. Otherwise, I really like this dressing as is.

The fresh herbs with the oil and vinegar really are so spectacular. You won’t believe how much tastier your salad is with a fresh dressing on top. I also like to use Italian dressing when cooking veggies. Instead of just drizzling in some olive oil when sauteing or roasting, drizzle on this dressing for more flavor. Imagine tossing some fresh tomatoes in this dressing and then roasting it in the oven. Oh my!

See my Dips, Dressings and Sauces board on Pinterest for more fresh dressings.

Related Posts:


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Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with BACON!

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Today was a Bountiful Basket day, which is always a good day. I get so excited to see what arrives on the truck. Today’s haul was really exceptional because it included a few things I haven’t tried to cook with yet: water chestnuts and spaghetti squash. I’ll keep you posted on how those work out, but while I was helping at the pick-up site, I heard several people grumbling that they were not excited about the very large bag of Brussels sprouts we were getting.

Why, oh why can’t we get past the sprout hating, people? Just because grandma boiled them to death and made you eat those slimy things, doesn’t mean they are inherently yucky.

After all, they’re just mini cabbages – do you like cabbage? Ok, if you said yes, then you like Brussels sprouts. The end.

I know my fellow Bountiful Basketeers are scrambling to find recipes to try with their bag o’ sprouts, so I thought I better get this one posted ASAP.

I like Brussels best when they are crispy, and while I have oven roasted them in a few different ways (see Crispy Parmy Sprouties), I haven’t tried them on the stove-top before tonight. Since the oven was busy making a meatloaf (yeah, my carnivorous husband insisted I feed him meat “for a change”), I decided to make some skillet sprouts. I was hoping to attain some crispiness, so I opted for a caramelizing technique…and to do that, I did something I almost never do: I used BACON. Only two strips, though!

The result was just what I wanted: crispy, tasty, salty and savory. Mhmmm…I can pretty much guarantee that your whole family will jump on-board the Brussels flavor train with this recipe. You can’t go wrong when you’re cooking with bacon, right?

Here’s what I did:

Slice up about half an onion – more or less to suit your tastes. Place two slices of bacon in the skillet set to medium heat. After it cooks for a few minutes, add the onions. Keep the heat to medium, or medium-low, so they don’t cook to fast.

Quarter the Brussels by slicing them lengthwise. I started with about 10 large sprouts.

When the bacon is cooked through, but not crispy, remove from the skillet so it doesn’t overcook. Chop it up to add back to the skillet later.

Add the quartered sprouts to the pan and continue cooking on medium-low heat. Depending on how much bacon grease remains in the pan, you might need to add some extra virgin olive oil to the pan. My bacon wasn’t very thick, so I needed to add a good drizzle. I probably left my skillet cooking for about 20 minutes. It’s important not to rush the cooking, or they’ll end up cooked on the outside and still hard and uncooked on the inside. Stir occasionally.

Once your onions and sprouts start getting that happy caramel brown color, go ahead and add the bacon pieces back in. Once the bacon is crisp and the sprouts are sufficiently caramelized (dark golden brown), they are done and ready to eat!

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts – with Bacon!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 10-14 fresh Brussels sprouts, quartered
  • ½ large onion, sliced
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add bacon, then onions after a few minutes.
  2. Quarter the Brussels sprouts, lengthwise.
  3. When bacon is cooked through, but not yet crispy, remove from pan and chop up, reserving for later.
  4. Add Brussels to skillet and continue cooking over medium-low heat. Add a drizzle or two of olive oil, as needed, depending on amount of bacon grease remaining in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Once onions and Brussels turn a dark golden brown (about 20 minutes), add the bacon back into the pan and cook until it crisps up.
  6. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Notes for next time:

The Hubs and I were pretty pleased with how these turned out, so I wouldn’t change much. I did think that it might have been pretty to add some carrots, which would also taste great with bacon and onions. Another idea: instead of bacon, you might use diced ham and make it more of a skillet meal.

Simple, right? I do feel a little bad about the bacon, but it was only two slices – and, honestly, it would have been fine with only one slice. I am pretty certain that even the sprout haters will like this recipe, so give it go and see how it goes over at your dinner table.

Related posts:

See my Brussels Sprouts board on Pinterest for more sprout recipes.


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Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

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I admit it; I was pretty doubtful about this recipe the first time I tried it. I had some acorn squash from my Bountiful Basket order and I wanted to do something more interesting with it than roasting with brown sugar and maple syrup, so I turned to Pinterest, as usual. I found some interesting recipes, but since I’m a sucker for pasta dishes, I was drawn to Healthy Happy Life’s recipe for Acorn Squash Vegan Alfredo Sauce. Well, I’m not vegan, but the idea of making pasta sauce from squash sounded fun, so after careful consideration, I decided to give it whirl. I viewed it as an experimental recipe, fully prepared to go to plan B if it didn’t work out. (In our house, plan B is cereal for me and frozen burger patty for the Hubs).

The first issue I had with the recipe was that it calls for nutritional yeast flakes. I have no idea what that ingredient is, so I wasn’t sure what to sub for it. In reading through some of the comments on the post, I learned that cheese might be a good substitute, so I decided to try using some Parmesan and asiago cheese, since that’s what I had on hand. I only had vanilla flavored soy milk and worried that the vanilla flavor wouldn’t go well with the savory flavor of the sauce, so I used skim milk instead. Otherwise, I made a few other minor adjustments and the results were truly surprising. It was creamy and it didn’t taste odd – or squashy. The flavors are deep in their Italian savory roots. It’s not sweet, like you might think, either. I added some cooked chicken breast to the dish, mostly because I was afraid that the Hubs would reject a meatless meal – especially when he found out that the main ingredient was squash.

When the Hubs arrived home for dinner, I nonchalantly served up the squash pasta and commenced eating my own, waiting for his reaction. He started eating without asking questions and then said the magic words: “This is really good.” I asked him if he knew what it was. Then he gave me that look – the one that says, “Oh Lord, what has she fed me this time?” I told him the sauce was made from acorn squash and he was pretty surprised and said he really liked it.

BUT, the real test came later when a family friend’s 18 year old son dropped by and we offered him dinner, but didn’t tell him what it was, other than pasta. He ate two plates before we told him he was eating squash sauce with the pasta. Didn’t faze him. Kids: you never know.

I was happy to receive a couple of acorn squash in my Bountiful Basket again recently so I could try this recipe again. Here’s how I made it, but play with the ingredients to suit your own tastes:

Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole acorn squash
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil (I used some frozen I had from the garden)
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (or Asiago, etc.)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard (I used the whole wheat variety, but recommend the smoother kind)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (use the good stuff)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • Optional: protein such as diced cooked chicken or cooked shrimp (this time I used some chicken sausage, sliced)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice squash in half, horizontally. Place cut side down in a baking dish. Add about an inch of water to the pan. Roast for about an hour, but check for doneness at 45 minutes. The skin peels away easily when it’s done. Allow squash to cool enough to handle.
  3. Set salted pasta water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. (I also added my sliced chicken sausage to the pot while pasta was cooking). Reserve a cup of pasta water when you drain the pasta, to add to the sauce to thin, as needed.
  4. While pasta cooks, remove squash skin and seeds, then place the pulp in the food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend until all ingredients are creamy. Taste and adjust spices to taste. If you need to thin it, add some pasta water a little at a time and blend then check consistency.
  5. Toss pasta with sauce. Serve immediately.

Notes for next time:

The first time I made this, I used both parm and asiago cheese and I liked that better than just the parm. Another thought – to make a little more creamier, I think I might add a little Greek yogurt next time. I love shrimp, so I would add some cooked shrimp instead of chicken, but the Hubs doesn’t love shrimp (well, he doesn’t love shrimp touching anything other than deep frying batter and cocktail sauce). Instead of protein, you could also up the veg quotient with some steamed broccoli or some sautéed bell pepper or zucchini. The apple cider vinegar creates a nice tang in the background, but I almost tried some red wine vinegar, instead. I think it goes with Italian better. Finally, I want to add some caramelized onions to the mixture for a little more savoriness.

Try this! I bet, like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you love it and how different it tastes than you expect.

For my other squash pins see my Squash Board on Pinterest.

Related posts: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta


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Goodbye Garden 2012, Hello Garden 2013

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I’ve been feeling blue for a couple of weeks. Temps have been dropping and my harvest has been drying up. My once lush and prosperous plants have been drooping and shrinking. Then Sunday afternoon the Hubs and I stood in the kitchen looking out to the garden, knowing it was going to freeze that night. I was a little teary and he put his arm around me and told me what an awesome garden we had this year and how much he enjoyed it and all of the fresh food. Awww…

It was 32 degrees when I went to bed that night, so I knew it was over then. Black leaves are so sad…and overtly symbolic. While I pulled the green tomatoes off my blackened vines Monday, I reflected on this year’s garden and already found myself planning for next year. One way to shorten the mourning period over the end of this season is to look forward to the next one. If only I didn’t have to wait sooooo long. First goal for next year: plan for Fall gardening, so I don’t have to feel soo sad when summer harvest ends.

Whether you had your own garden this summer or you’re planning to try one next year, now is a good time to start planning. Most of my early planning is focused on which type of plants I want to add and which I plan to skip. But, along with those plans I’m realizing that I’m going to have to expand my garden space. Luckily, I have room, so I just need to get the dirt worked – and I should do it before the ground is totally frozen to get a jump on soil prep for next year. I also need to incorporate my compost into the soil now so it can get happy for next Spring.

But let’s talk plants because they’re more exciting than dirt. I have been thinking about what I’d like to add and subtract next year. My big lesson from this year is to grow what I like – well, love. If you don’t like it – or love it, you might not use it and find yourself swimming in produce you’re not very excited about, which can lead to waste. This year I realized I don’t need to repeat a few things.

No repeats:

  • Broccoli – I like it and the Hubs likes it, but I guess we don’t love it. The plants take up a ton of space and really don’t produce as much as a huge plant should.

  • Elephant garlic – it’s supposed to produce really large heads, but I wasn’t very impressed with its size or flavor. Regular garlic is better.
  • Sandia and Big Jim Peppers – I ended up with way too many of these and didn’t find them to be hot enough for my tastes, so I would rather plant some hotter peppers instead.

Happy additions:

  • Tomatillos – I got some in my Bountiful Basket and LOVED them. I want to make and can salsa verde next year.
  • Cucumbers – I’m not crazy about pickles, but cucumbers are great in a salad and when you’re eating lettuce daily for months, you need some fixins to make it more interesting.
  • Radishes – as with cucumbers, I think they go nice with salad, so I would like to grow a few.
  • Beets – I really love pickled beets and have seen some good looking recipes for roasted beets, so I think I would like to have some fresh beets.
  • Brussels sprouts – no idea if I can grow these in SW Colorado, but I like them, so I’m going to find out. I bet they will be really great when they are garden fresh.
  • Peas – maybe. I love peas and have grown them previously, but they take up a lot of room and take a lot of time to shell, so we’ll see.
  • Herbs – mint, thyme and rosemary. I don’t know why I didn’t do more with herbs this year. I adored my basil, cilantro and oregano, so I want to include more so I have fresh herbs to cook with.
  • Giant Sunflowers – not for eating, but for their supreme beauty. I just think they are cool to look at. Plus, they are handy for providing shade for tender plants during the peak of summer.

More or less:

  • Tomatoes – I had three cherry tomato plants and two regular tomato plants. Apparently I’m a real gardener now because I’m totally obsessed with tomatoes. I learned to can, so I need MORE. Next year I plan to focus on romas since I tend to make a lot of sauce, but I also want some salsa varieties and about three cherry plants seemed to be just right.

  • Onions – I felt like I planted bushels, but I know my stash will not last more than a month or two into winter. I need much more! I also plan to plant more green onions because they are so great to have and use during the summer while waiting for the big ‘uns to be ready.

  • Garlic – I also need much more garlic since I go through a head or two per week. It stores easily, so I need to plant more – and should have gotten some in the ground before freezing for a Spring harvest.

  • Bell Peppers – I had a few plants, but would like more variety than the purple and green I had: red, yellow, orange.

  • Spinach – I had a very small crop this year, so I think I need a heartier variety and I need to get it in the ground even earlier so the heat doesn’t get it.
  • Lettuce – I planted a mix that included about 4 varieties of heat tolerant lettuce and it was very, very prolific. I want to plant less of that mix and add some different varieties. A little seed results in mountains of cut and come again lettuce, so one needs to be careful how much they plant (remind me about this next Spring).
  • Potatoes – our crop was very small because I only planted about five plants and they weren’t very productive. I think my seed potatoes were not good, so I will try another variety and plant more.
  • Eggplant – my three plants had us swimming in eggplant and though we enjoy it, it was too much for us. Next year we’ll only have two plants.

  • Pumpkin – next to tomatoes, my other favorite crop is my accidental sweet pumpkins. I have almost used all of my pumpkin crop this year, and plan to buy some during the Halloween season to preserve for the winter. So, obviously I need to plant more next year. I think I’ll do a whole pumpkin patch area in the garden.

  • Basil – another favorite crop is basil and I must have more. I’m making pesto with the last of this year’s crop and wish I had more to put in the freezer for the winter because it’s so versatile and easy to cook with.

So I guess this is goodbye to Garden 2012. You were great fun and so productive! I can only pray that Garden 2013 lives up to your example…and then some! 🙂

Readers: what new plants do you plan to add to your garden next year? Maybe you’ll give me more ideas (I’m going to end up with a whole farm, aren’t I?)


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Easiest Pumpkin and Fruit Galette (Tart)

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Alright, here it is: the easiest pie you’ll ever make! Trust me. People will be highly impressed with your baking skills….and it’s simply delicious!

I don’t do a lot of baking, but not because it’s too technical or because I don’t like sweets. I don’t mind the occasional picky measurements and I definitely love sweets. But therin lies the the problem. If I bake it, I eat it. Since most baked goods are high in carbs, fat and calories, I tend to avoid baking except for the occasional treat or birthday cake. The Hubs is a pie fanatic, so my lack of baking doesn’t serve him well at all.

Last weekend we were invited to a BBQ. In our world, a party means the hosts prepare a main dish and guests are expected to bring a dish and your own booze. So I surveyed the produce in the house to see what I had to work with. A potluck is a great way to use up of an abundance of garden or Bountiful Basket produce. Ah-ha! Fruit. I admit that fruit is not my strong point. I don’t naturally gravitate to it like I do vegetables, so I have a hard time using up the fruit from our bi-weekly basket and from friends who insist I take bags and boxes of peaches, apricots, apples, etc. from their trees at this time of year. The Hubs likes his fruit, but can only eat so much – and we only need so much jam.

So last Saturday, I had some really big nectarines and some little pluots (apparently a cross between a plum and an apricot). I went looking for a recipes and landed on FoodGawker (an amazing food porn site: you gotta check it out). I saw a three-ingredient nectarine galette (I had to look up “galette:” it’s a type of tart). The picture was beautiful and it sounded so simple! Perfect for a busy day when I had multiple kitchen projects going on. It’s also perfect when I can bake something and take to another house – and leave it there.

As usual, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and added my own touches to this lovely recipe.

Here’s how:

Choose the fruit you want to use for the galette. I think any stone fruit, berries or apples or pears would work nicely. Pick what you have or whatever is in season. Like I said, I had some nectarines and some pluots, so I went with those. I considered adding an apple but decided to keep that for lunches. I used two large nectarines and four pluots, but I could have used a little more because it cooks down.

Thinly slice the fruit. My pluots were a little ripe and the nectarines were a little under-ripe, so I sliced the pluots a little thicker and the nectarines a little thinner to ensure even cooking.

Place fruit in a bowl and toss with cornstarch, which helps thicken the fruit juices as it bakes.

Next, unroll a refrigerated pie crust (I know, I should have made my own crust! Maybe next time) onto a large baking sheet or pizza pan. I lined my pan with parchment so it would slide off easily.

Here’s the exciting part! I was making this the same day I made some pumpkin puree. The Hubs wondered into the kitchen and had a taste of the puree, just as I was slicing fruit. He commented that it would be even better with some cinnamon and sugar. Pie freak! That’s when it dawned on me that I had to add some pumpkin to this tart. I scooped out about 1/3 cup puree and spread it on the middle of the crust.

Sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on the puree. It’s like a pumpkin pie under the fruit galette!

Next, dump the fruit on top of the puree and top with more cinnamon, brown sugar and some sliced butter.

Now, fold and tuck the edges of the crust over the sides of the fruit.

Brush the exposed crust with butter (or some people use milk or egg – yolk or white or whole) and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is soft and cooked through.

Cool and carefully slide onto a serving plate.

Pumpkin & Fruit Galette:

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

(all ingredient amounts are approximate – no fussy measuring needed)

  • 1 refrigerated rolled pie crust (or a homemade pie crust)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (recipe for homemade here)
  • Sliced fruit (pitted, but not peeled), measuring about 3 1/2-4 cups (I used nectarines and pluots)
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 1-2 Tbsp cinnamon (depending on your personal cinnamon love. Mine is high), divided
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

Directions:

  1. Set refrigerated pie crust out to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice fruit, then toss with cornstarch.
  3. Unroll pie crust and place on parchment lined baking pan or pizza pan.
  4. Spread pumpkin puree in center of crust, leaving about a two inch border to fold crust. It’s ok to heap it into a bit of a pile as it will cook down.
  5. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of brown sugar and 1/2 Tbsp of cinnamon over pumpkin puree.
  6. Spread fruit over puree and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar (reserve a few pinches for outer crust) and cinnamon.
  7. Slice 2 Tbsp of cold butter and tuck into fruit mixture.
  8. Fold and tuck edges of crust over sides of fruit.
  9. Brush outer crust with remaining butter (softened) and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is soft and cooked through.

Notes for next time:

The galette was a hit as dessert at the BBQ. Of course we paired it with some creamy vanilla ice cream. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, just providing some texture to the fruit and another layer of flavor. The Hubs ate his slice in about three bites and was very disappointed that we didn’t have leftovers to take home. Since it’s pretty easy and not horribly fattening, I will make another one for him – maybe with some apples, pears and peaches. I think I would add some chopped pecans to the fruit mixture to give it a little crunch. I might also use some pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon over the puree, for a little more pumpkin pie flavor.

This is a great weeknight dessert, because it’s so easy, but it’s so pretty that it also makes an impressive dinner party dessert. The Fall flavors are perfect for a changing seasons menu. I highly recommend you give this one a try and report back here about they type of fruit you used and how it turned out.

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