Tag Archive | garden

Ratatouille

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Anyone who has a backyard garden or who is a member of a CSA gets to the point in the summer where they do not want to see another summer squash!  We have roasted it, grilled it, stir fried it, baked it in bread, froze it, and are dreaming about it!  Ratatouille is yet another way to use the abundance of summer veggies. Put the Ratatouille movie in for the kids, pour yourself a glass of wine or ice tea and have a good time.  Lets get cooking.

From the garden you will need:

One yellow squash, one green zucchini, 2 egg plants depending on size, 3 potatoes, an onion,  4 gloves of garlic, thyme, about 1 1/2 cup sliced peppers and 3 tomatoes. Wash all your produce.

Preheat oven to 375. Start by boiling some water to blanch your potatoes, the potatoes just need a cooking head start so they are not too crunchy.

While the water is boiling you can slice the rest of your veggies.  I recommend a mandolin for this, but a knife and a board would work find. You will slice the potatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and tomatoes.  I found that the knife worked better for the tomatoes.  You want thin slices maybe a 1/4 cm thick, start with your potatoes, because you will need them first.

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Once the water comes to a boil, blanch your potatoes for 3-4 minutes, then pull them out of the water and set them aside to cool while you finish slicing your veggies.

Put all your veggies neatly on a tray to make the arranging easier in the future.   Next dice your onions and your garlic.  Now lets start cooking. The sauce at the bottom of your pan is what gives your veggies all their flavor, so don’t be overwhelmed by the flavor you put in here.

I highly recommend cast iron pans in all my recipes, but if you do not have cast iron, you will need to cook this in a pan that is pretty deep and can transfer from the stove top to the oven.  Saute your onions and garlic in a table spoon of butter until they are clear.

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To this we are going to add salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of red pepper flakes, pinch of paprika and 1/2 tsp of thyme.  Once the onions are done, add 1 cup of tomato sauce, we used sauce we had canned, but any store sauce will do. Let simmer why you start the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel is a fancy word for cream sauce, don’t let it scare you, it is very easy to make. In a med sauce pan melt 1 tbsp of butter.  Once butter is melted add 2 tbsp of flour.  This will quickly turn to a paste. Slowly add 1 cups of milk.  I use goats milk, but you can use 1/2 and 1/2, whole milk, skim or a stock. I recommend a fatty milk for more flavor.  Once the milk just starts to warm and you see bubbles in the milk on the side of the pot, add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Wisk until smooth.  Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the tomato sauce mixture in your skillet.  Turn off the burners.
Now we start layering.  Take one slice of each type of veggie.  Potato, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and pepper.  Starting around the outside of the pan layer them in a circle.  It will look like this. Keep going till you used up all your veggies or you have crammed everything you can into the pan.  I always seem to have extra veggies.

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Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan. Cover with parchment paper and put in the oven to back for 50 minutes or until the veggies are tender.  I have to put a cookie sheet under because it bubbles over.  Once veggie are tender turn off oven, remove and let stand for 5 minutes. The remaining cream sauce will go on the top when you plate! Enjoy!

Ratatouille

By  Shades of  Lavender

Produce from the garden:

  • 1 med eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 3 med. Tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 gloves garlic
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 potatoes
  • Tsp thyme

Refrigerated Foods:

  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Milk
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese

Pantry Foods:

  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch paprika
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat stove to 375o. Bring a med. Size pot of water to boil. Dice onions and garlic. Use mandolin to slice rest of veggies to 1/4 cm thick. Boil sliced potatoes for 3 mins, remove from water.  In skillet, sauté onions and garlic once clear add tomato sauce, thyme and paprika to skillet and let simmer.  In a separate small sauce pan melt butter, add flour and milk, whisk until thickens and add parmesan cheese.  Drizzle 1/2 of cream sauce on top of tomato sauce. Start layering the sliced veggies one of each kind, standing up around the skillet, till the skillet is full. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover with parchment paper.  Bake for 50 mins.  Let stand for 5 minutes. When you serve drizzle the rest of the cream sauce to the top.

 

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End of June Update

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Well things are continuing to grow.  Our tomato plants are 8 feet tall and my garden looks like an over grown jungle.  It is truly a magical thing, to think that a couple of months ago it was just dirt in raised beds, now it is a vegetable wonderland.

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This weekend we harvested 10 cucumbers, 2 pounds of beets, 2 pounds of green beans,  a couple of handfuls of blueberries that never made it in the house and some strawberries that also never made it out of the strawberry patch.  The down side of using children as garden assistants is sometimes they eat more than they bring in the house.  But I would rather have that then children that do not like to help in the garden.  My little girl not only eats all the berries, but also eats green beans and cucumbers fresh from the plants. We are not able to can the beets right now so I am going to boil them, slice them and freeze them.  I would much rather can them, but this works great too.

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Everything is continuing to grow.  The tomato plants are taking over, to the point that I am having to cut them back and pull tomato plants up and transplant them into the aquaponics system.  Our white beans are very close to being harvested, because they are a dry bean I have to pull the whole plant and hang it all to dry.  This was the first year that I planted drying beans and I learned that those should not be planted till much later in the season.  In fact, I have not planted my black beans or red beans yet because I want them to be able to dry on the vine.  The potato plants are starting to turn yellow, I look forward to harvesting fresh potatoes.  That is another thing that I would do differently next year.  I would plant potatoes in waves, so that I would have a more constant supply and have some ready right at the end of the season for the winter.  This is the first year we have planted sweet potatoes and they look great.  It is so much fun learning new things.  The carrots are also almost ready to be harvested, my husband and I always argue about carrots, I always want to pull them up to see how they are doing, and he wants me to leave them in the ground until fall… we will see who wins.

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Now that we have harvested all the beets, I did my second planting in the bed. My husband help me build a pallet trellis for butternut squash to grow up.  Under the pallets, I planted head lettuce, hoping that the shade from the butternut will keep them from bolting in the heat.  I also planted 2 more rows of beans, and a row of chard.  I am just starting to figure out how to do second plantings.  I really need to get better at it.  Every year life gets in the way, but I guess that is what makes it life.  I am looking forward to seeing how this bed turns out, I will post pictures.  Below is a picture of it now.

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In the aquaponics system the fish are growing great.  The new filter that we put in works great for keeping the water clean.  I am so frustrated though because the cabbage moths have found all my cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. I have been pulling cabbage worms off every day, but they are still doing a fair amount of damage.  With these  plants being the aquaponics system there is very little I can do to get rid of them.  I have thought about netting the plants, but my husband things that we are just going to have to grow these plants under row covers in the fall when the moths are not around.  We are lucky that these are the only major pest that we have in the garden.

This is a very busy time, I am enjoying the fresh veggies and having dirt under my nails.  Keep getting dirty!

 

The Downside of Raising Animals

This post might be too graphic for young readers and those with a weak stomach. I will post the cute pictures first!

 

Most days I really enjoy the animals that we raise and they bring me more joy than sadness.  This morning however, was not one of those times.  We have a doe that has been struggling as a mother.  Aurora, we have learned, does not play well with others. For the last six months she has been living in our “Bunny Barn” with the rest of our rabbits.  While in the barn, she was not being a very good momma rabbit.  She would not put her babies in the nest, and she would not cover them up when it was 10 degrees outside.  We lost a lot of babies this winter as the result of this.  All of those babies were dead when we found them, it was sad, but there was not much that we could do.

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So we took the hint, and this spring we moved her out of the Bunny Barn.  This was her last chance to prove that she could be a good momma.  She lives in her own hutch that sits in my garden area, her new set up is in the picture above.   She can see the whole yard, the dogs come and sniff her and the kids can poke at her more than they could in the Bunny Barn.  However, even with all those stresses, she seems very happy in the garden.  She kindled six kits early yesterday morning, she built an amazing nest and she pulled way more hair, than needed in June, to cover them up and keep them toasty.  We were so proud of her.

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When I investigated the kits better to count them and remove any still born, my heart sank!  One of her little kits was born with no skull or skin covering up its brain.  (I put at picture at the very bottom of the post).  I called our amazing, trusty vet, and friend to ask if there was any hope of saving this little one.  Sadly, the answer was no.  Our baby had Encephalocele, this is a congenital birth defect that happens in gestation when there is not proper development of the nervous system.  There was no way this rabbit could live for very long and it would suffer if it did live.  So even though this was the most active kit in the litter, I had to humanly kill it so that it did not suffer anymore.  Our kind vet suggested putting it in a bag and putting it in the freezer, even though it was not the fastest way, it was the most peaceful, the baby would just go to sleep.   The other choice I had was to break its neck and that would have been even more difficult for me to do.

At the end of the day, I am glad that the rest of the litter is still doing well.  I am sad that we lost the one, but it is much better than losing all of them like we did this winter.  I am happy to announce that Aurora is being a much better momma now, she lays in the door way to the nesting area and protects the babies.  She built them an amazing nest, without a nesting box.  I hope that other rabbit people are able to  learn something from this sad story.

 

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First day of spring

I am so happy to say that Spring is officially here!   I have already started planting and look forward to my much needed vitamin D and dirt therapy.  Some friends asked me if their garden was ruined because they have not started doing anything yet.  The answer is NO! It is never to early or too late to start planting something. Where do you start, well lets talk about it…

Some people might argue with me, but I believe the most important thing that you need when you want to start a garden is the desire to start a garden.  If you don’t like dirt, you don’t like a little sweat and time in the sun; gardening is not for you. Check out your local farmers market.  So the first step is that you want to garden.

Next you need to define what a garden looks like to you.  Not everyone needs to dig up all their grass and turn their whole property into a garden.  A garden can be as simple as a small container in a sunny window or it can be a couple of feet in your backyard.  The pallet garden beds that I wrote about in a previous post make a wonderful small kitchen garden.

Now, we have established that you like dirt, know the size of your garden area, next you have to think about what you want to plant.  Please, I beg you do not plant veggies that you have never tried before, or worse is veggies that you don’t  like.  Do not plant cucumbers if you do not like cucumbers.  Last year I planted 8 cucumber seeds and I got 110 cucumbers… if my family did not like cucumbers we would have had a problem. Lettuce, cucumbers, squash, peas,  and beans are all wonderful low maintenance crops.   For your first garden, keep it simple and don’t try to do every veggie known to man. Seeds can be bought at the grocery stores, hardware stores, gardening centers, or even Walmart.  If you were to ask me which seeds I would choose I would say Seed Saver Seeds, but I started out with Blurpee seeds just like everyone else and they worked great.

All of the crops that I mentioned, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, peas, and beans… the seeds can just go right into the ground.  Don’t worry about getting an early start.  It does not matter if the soil is perfect. A sunny spot with some dirt is all you need.  Compost, soil pH, and mulching are all things we can talk about later. In most growing locations you can plant your seeds after the weather starts to turn warm.  It is fun to plant and just watch Mother Nature take over.  Provide sun, water and some dirt and you will be amazed at what can come out of that little seed. The cool thing is most of the time the seed packet tells you what to do and how to plant the seed.

Keep it simple and have fun. Let me know how it turns out.