simple, delicious, comfort food…alfredo with veggies!

So, as usual, I hadn’t really ‘planned’ dinner…I used to plan dinners, well, sort of… my idea of planning was and still is, to try and incorporate a new recipe every now and again – to help with the boringness of the ‘same old, same old’ – but now that I’m only home three nights a week, I tend to ‘wing it’ and simply use what I have on hand…sometimes it works, sometimes it’s still the ‘same old, same old’…but it’s always homemade, with love.

This night I was in need of a change, do you that know that feeling?

Our bodies need change, our minds need change, and our food prep habits need change…hence, how I ended up with this recipe…

I needed to use what I had (I live 25 minutes from the closest grocery store, one-way), and I wanted to utilize the abundance of fresh kale I had just picked from my backyard garden and I wanted comfort food.

first kale + swiss chard

So, guess what I came up with? Pasta with kale, dripping in alfredo sauce!

vertical alfredo

It was SO good.

I think all that cheese negated the health benefits of the kale, but such is life sometimes…

A few months ago (in the cold, dark of winter) I was wanting something rich, gooey, and comforting –  I needed a recipe for an alfredo sauce. A simple sauce of cheese, milk/cream, roux and salt and pepper. Nothing else would do. I connected to the internet (yes, I still have dial-up and yes, it still exists, sadly…) and after awhile I came across this delicious and easy to make recipe. I made it, I loved it and I printed it to keep – and I’m so glad I did.

I hadn’t made it since the dark days of winter, but when your in the mood for a rich and decadent alfredo sauce and you live in the woods by the sea, well, you better know how to make it, or at least have a recipe to help you know how!

So, I looked in the fridge – yeah, all the ingredients were there! All I had to do was prep.

No simple feat as a mamma of a pre-schooler, but with a little help from Michael, my partner – he entertained our four year old, while I chopped, diced, whisked and then finally, assembled – dinner!

pasta, veggies, alfredo

This recipe is so flexible, it’s ridiculous.

Here’s what you need and what to do;

Sautee any veggies you have – I used peppers, mushrooms and kale – in a bit of olive oil and set aside.

veggies sauteed

Boil water for pasta and begin cooking pasta just before you start making the alfredo sauce.

Prepare alfredo sauce.

Place cooked pasta on plate or bowl, top with alfredo, then veggies and voila, dinner is served! Finish with a bit of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve alongside a salad of greens and a feast is served! Enjoy.

Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo Recipe – Print this!

Slightly adapted from Jessica at Delicious Obsessions

Ingredients;

1/4 cup

1/2 tbsp. freshly minced garlic

1 -2 tbsp. flour of your choice (I used 1.5 tbsp. unbleached white)

3/4 cup whole milk*

3/4 cup heavy cream*

**(I substituted 1.5 cups half and half and 1/4 whole milk for heavy cream and milk measurements)

1.5 cups freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

What to Do:

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.

Add garlic and saute until lightly browned.

Sprinkle the flour over the butter/garlic mixture and whisk around, quickly. You want to use enough flour to absorb the butter, without over doing it.  You want to create a roux (which is a mixture of flour and a fat (usually butter) used to thicken sauces and soups), which is slightly thick, yet fluid, without being gloppy.

Whisk this mixture for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning…this helps remove the ‘raw’ taste the flour could have if undercooked. The flour should be very lightly browned.

After you’ve made your roux (cooked your flour), slowly add the milk and cream, all the while continuing to whisk. Keep whisking – or else your sauce will be clumpy – until it’s slightly thickened and gently bubbling…

While whisking, add the shredded parmesan, little by little, until all is incorporated.

Remove from heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Things to consider;

Don’t have kale? Use spinach or swiss chard.

Don’t have peppers? Use caramelized onions or summer squash.

What about garlic? Or garlic scapes? Or fresh basil? What about freshly chopped parsley?

Like meat? Add sausage or bacon.

Play around with what you have and keep it simple.

Veggies and cheese over pasta, how can you go wrong?

Enjoy.

 

 

the end of June is here

The end of June is here which means picking fresh strawberries, enjoying garlic scapes and the the first harvest of swiss chard and kale…plus, the 4th. of July is just around the corner!

strawberries

 

more strawberries

 

strawberries 2

 

garlic scape

 

garlic scapes

 

Yeah for all things homegrown!

 

Enjoy.

yeah for summer!

Time. It keeps moving forward…and here in Maine, it’s so obvious. Obvious because of the cycle of the seasons and the flowers (or lack of) each season brings.

After being here, year round these past six years, I’ve begun to notice the pattern of the flowers on this peninsula. First it’s the snow drops, then the tulips, followed by the daffodils, the apple blossoms, the ferns…the buttercups, forget me nots… and it goes on and on until the chill of fall begins putting things back to sleep…

ferns

buttercups and forget me nots

I’ve been wanting to post since before the daffodils

daffodils open

and before the apple trees began to bud.

apple buds

 

I then I tried before their blossoms appeared, though now those beautiful flowers are long gone…

apple blossoms I did take full advantage of bringing a few inside while they were here…they are (were) so beautiful!

I tried to write while the lilacs were still buds

lilac buds

and winter jackets were still needed, though while the jackets (thankfully) are finally packed away, the lilac flowers have come and gone too.

lilacs

I can say the same about when the rosa rugosa started to bud; I wanted to post, but time escaped me, again…It was so exciting when their buds finally began to open and their greenery popped out in early spring,

rugosa beginnings

though now they are even more intoxicating – their sweet scent being carried on the wind, into my (now) open kitchen windows…luxury, to say the least.

rugosa buds

rugosa

The lupines are here (though they are almost gone now too)

IMG_4660_2 lupines

and the iris’s are blooming, though quickly passing.

iris

Tiger lilies are beginning to bud and other types have already blossomed.

tiger lilly buds

I look forward to my peonies, nasturtiums and morning glories…though realize they too will come and go. But, I’m not rushing, nor forgetting to appreciate the here and now! While spring may be ending, summer is just beginning!

peony bud

So while the flowers, whichever they may be, are here, I will enjoy them. I will pick them, eat them (nasturtiums), give them away and decorate with them.

For me, late spring and all of summer is a time of freshly picked flowers in every room, freshly harvested vegetables from the backyard, and the hope that with the heat, comes a more slow pace, if only for a few weeks…

Flowers remind me just how fleeting life can be and how beautiful it is.

And don’t even get me started on all the loveliness in the vegetable garden, time goes quickly there too! If you don’t get your seeds/plants in on time, well, you miss out…

Here’s a sneak peek at what is happening back there!

chive flowers

swiss chard

lettuce

pansys

I’ve never tried starting pansy’s from seed and this year I did! I’m so pleased that they are finally blooming!!

kale

potatoes

the garden

Happy Summer!

 

roasted beets

Roasted beets

These sublime beauties are a cinch to prepare.

Really.

In years past I’ve grown and harvested many, many beets;

veggies

though last years erratic weather prevented an abundant crop, sadly, I had only a few…

beet in ground

so, off to the farmers market I go!

unwashed beets

Wash, scrub (if necessary) and remove green tops. (Steam or saute greens with a bit of olive oil, don’t just throw those beauties away…)

beets in sink

tops and bottoms removed

I usually cut off the tops and tails of each beet. These beets I felt I needed to cut off a bit more than usual…if they are freshly harvested, I cut a much smaller area…

close-up before packing

Dampen each beet slightly with a bit of water and then wrap in foil.

wrapping each

I prefer wrapping each beet individually, though you could also prepare a foil packet and roast a few together. The key to either preparation is to be sure the foil is sealed. You want to be sure to keep all those lovely juices in!

Length of time depends on the size and freshness of the beet. Smaller beets take less time, larger beets, more. Also, the fresher the beet, the less time is takes to roast…smaller beets can take up to 25 minutes, while larger ones, up to an hour.

peeled and cubed

A beet is roasted once it can be easily pierced with a fork or tip of a small knife.

Now, you ask, “At what temperature do you roast?” Well, this can also fluctuate…beets are flexible with temperature…so, feel free to roast your beets while the rest of dinner is baking away, or on their own…beets are happiest between between 325 degrees F. and 425 degrees F.

If it’s only beets your roasting, then place those lovelies in a 425 degree F pre-heated oven.

I usually roast them in my cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will do. The foil keeps all the steam in, thus, all the resulting juices too…making clean-up a snap!

Do be careful while opening each packet as juice may spill out…beautiful deep purple juice. Staining juice…

Once cooled enough to touch, peeling is so easy that the skins simply slip off. If you don’t mind having your hands stained a crimson red for awhile, then by all means, slide those skins off with your bare hands. If not,  you may prefer using gloved hands or you can also use a paring knife. Granted, using a paring knife will not prevent staining, it’s just another method…

sliced with salt

Regretfully, I do not have any photos depicting the ease of slipping off the skins…by the time each beet had cooled enough to hold, the sun had set. My natural light  had disappeared…

But, the following day, the sun shone bright and I enjoyed these lovelies sliced and sprinkled with a smidgen of kosher salt as well as in a salad of fresh spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

beet and spinach salad

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Why not roast a few today?

Enjoy!

potato leek soup

I’d never grown leeks before, but thought I’d try…and I’m so glad I did. Mass produced leeks lack, what all mass produced veggies lack, and that’s taste.

my leeks 1

Backyard leeks are incredibly powerful,

Less is more with these beauties…

my leeks 2

Not a gardener? Well then stop by your local farmers market and pick up a few…or your local health food store…or the organic produce aisle of your local supermarket.

The difference is incredible and well worth the expense…see for yourself.

Potato Leek Soup

Print this recipe

potatoes, leeks, onion

1.5 lbs. potatoes

3/4 to 1 lb. leeks – chopped

1/2 onion – chopped

4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock…whichever you prefer…

juice from 1-2 lemons

olive oil

a couple tablespoons of butter

salt and pepper to taste

That’s it.

Here’s what to do;

First, wash and peel the potatoes, then chop.

Second, clean each leek, chop white parts only.

cleaned leeks

trimmed leeks

Peel and chop onion.

choped onion

Splash enough olive oil to coat bottom of a heavy bottomed cook pot.

Heat over medium heat.

Add chopped onion and a bit of butter…

caramelized onion

Saute until browned.

Add chopped leeks…

chopped leek

Toss in a bit more butter…don’t be afraid…

Saute for a few more minutes.

Add chopped potatoes.

potatoes and onions

Toss and coat with buttery, browned onions/leeks…

Add a bit more butter…

Mix well.

9.adding stock

Pour in stock.

Stir.

Add a good pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir.

Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice…

Cover and simmer for about an hour.

slighly pureed in pot

From here it’s up to you;

Do you prefer a pureed version of potato leek soup? If so, then mix potato and leeks in a blender, with a bit of stock…keep blending in small batches until desired consistency is met…add more salt and pepper to taste…

Or, if that’s not your style, why not enjoy it, as is…?

Final option.

Utilize a hand mixer and puree only some…thus creating a smashed up soup, that’s what I did.

Whichever you choose…

Finish with ringlets of freshly chopped leeks (greenish part) and possibly even a splash of cream…

potato leek soup served

Serve with freshly baked bread.

freshly baked bread

Enjoy.

re-using flowers

My gardens have taken a back seat in my life lately, but just last week I said to myself, that’s it. It’s time to organize and clean-up the front flower beds.

It’s time to trim away the browning greenery, cut down the lilies gone by, pull out the ever encroaching weeds… in general – tidy up the flowers that are still growing and keep my front entrance looking bright and cheery. But what to do about the gaps left behind from annuals gone past…?

‘Aha’, I thought to myself.

I have some beautiful French Marigolds in the back garden – why not simply transplant a few up front?

So that’s what Finn and I did.

And while I don’t have any photos of the actual transplanting – it’s a delicate balance working with a three year old, a shovel and the roots of a plant  – I did manage to take a few photos of the front garden now…

front garden

marigolds filled in

This lovely stopped by while we were working…

monarch

And these buzzing beauties are still around…and loving all the marigolds…

busy bees

And while we did leave a few marigolds in the back garden, (we still have swiss chard, gourds and leeks to harvest), the color the transplants added to the front was just what they were needing! The back and front gardens benefit from these fall beauties.

And I didn’t have to buy a thing.

If your in need of a change in your flower beds, or want to start a new bed, think about utilizing plants/bulbs elsewhere in your yard.

Who doesn’t like free flowers?

Enjoy the weekend!

planting garlic

Have you ever done it?

I hadn’t until last week.

I was given three beautiful home grown (thank you Mim) heads of garlic and decided this was the year I would experiment with growing garlic…we enjoyed one head and used these two for planting…

1. garlic heads

So I asked a few gardener friends of mine if they had ever grown garlic and most had…all agreed it had to be the simplest bulb to grow.

Finn and I broke apart each bulb and then headed out to the garden…

2.top view peeling

3.Finn peeling garlic

4. heads pulled apart

5. close-up cloves

It was a beautiful day. The mosquitos were quiet, the sun was warm and the ocean could be heard…

7.holding clove

It’s so simple – if, of course you already have a garden or area to plant in…

Make little holes. We went about 2 inches apart. 2 – 3 inches deep.

6. make holes

Pop a clove in.

8. little hand over row of holes

Cover.

9. cover with dirt

Cover well.

10. cover well

Tamp gently.

11. tamp down

Water (not shown). Finn moved right along to picking carrots…but you can see the completed row of garlic behind him…

pulling carrots

Mulch garlic bed well for winter (still have to do). Wait for spring…

So, have you ever planted garlic?

…the last taste of summer

It’s officially fall now.

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the leaves are beginning to turn here in Maine…apples and pumpkins abound, mums (the flowers) are being popped into the ground and into pots everywhere and the smell of smoke is in the air…but I’m still savoring the last taste of summer…

vine-ripened

Vine ripened tomatoes,

basil 2

fresh basil,

fresh mozz. 2

fresh mozzarella

presto pesto

and pesto.

Melt together between two slices of bread and you will taste summer in a way which no other sandwich compares…

Granted, my tomatoes have all been plucked from their vines (nights are getting a bit too chilly for them) and they now continue to ripen on my window sill and the basil (still in the garden) is starting to brown, but I picked as much as I could before the cooler nights settled in and I’m so glad I did! I’ve made batches of pesto, stored what I could in the fridge and am drying more…

So what to do with all those tomatoes, basil and pesto?

Bake some bread, buy a block of fresh mozzarella and get slicing….

Now it’s not a ‘cheap’ sandwich to make if you have to buy all the ingredients, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to grow the basil and tomatoes and have the desire to bake some bread (check this recipe out for a very simple and inexpensive recipe) all you’ll need to buy is the fresh mozzarella. The least expensive block I’ve found sets me back $4, but I can get at least 4 sandwiches from one, so that ends up being only $1 per sandwich (at least for the cheese), a far cry from what this sandwich would cost if it was to be ordered out…

Gather your ingredients;

tomatoes + basil

sliced bread 2

fresh mozz. 2

A few leaves of basil, a few slices of fresh mozz., a couple pieces of bread, a tablespoon or two of pesto and sliced tomato. Add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic if you wish, a bit of butter for browning and you will have the tastiest summer sandwich – ever!

Spread each half of bread with pesto,

pesto spread 2

top with a layer of basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and then tomatoes…drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic (if you wish), a sprinkle of salt and top with other half of the bread…butter each side and place on hot griddle. Turn once browned and then cook the other side. Cut and serve! side view layered 2

layer tomatoes, basil and cheese 2

top view browned

cut and ready to serve 2

These were so delicious, Michael and I agreed we each had to have a second!

Are you missing summer already? Then why not make this sandwich and be reminded…

What are your favorite summertime ingredients? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

everyone should have fresh cut flowers

I was going to write about Finn’s first day of school (pre-school, that is), which was two days ago…or about the fact that I am now (and have been since early May) working, at night (to supplement our income) as a server (aka, waitress) at a super fun restaurant, with great people – but it’s still waitressing…in addition to keeping up with the house, the laundry, our business, the dishes…phew.

Days are long and the nights are late…mornings now begin only a few hours (or so it feels) after I’ve (finally) fallen asleep…oh the conundrum of working (or not working) as a mom.

Who knew?

But instead of sharing more about my busy life (I’m sure you can relate!), I decided to talk about the little luxuries growing throughout my garden and surrounding my home – my flowers. Flowers I started from seed months ago or planted as bulbs, years ago…

flowers in the garden

They are simply spectacular right now. And all that beauty cost me next to nothing to start – granted there is a time investment, but it’s oh so worth it!

sunroom

It makes me so happy when I look out my windows or pull into my driveway and see a variety of colorful petals and leaves looking back at me…especially when the hummingbirds are humming about…do you see them, there are two!

two hummingbirds

Morning glories, sunflowers, nasturtiums, lilies, beach roses, delphiniums, dahlias, poppies – all started for a few dollars…

nastursiums

zinnia

galdiolas 2

the time invested starting these little beauties is nothing compared to what I’ve gained – and will continue to gain…

a bunch of flowers

I’m already thinking about next years plantings…

sed starting packets

So when I spotted some discounted seed starting pots I had to pick them up – they were only .60 each, how could I not?

That’s 150 seedling beginnings for only $1.80!

Granted, I’ve used used egg cartons in the past, but my ‘egg guy’ has asked us to start returning them to help keep his costs down…so I do. With that in mind, I couldn’t pass this bargain up!

So while our household income has increased (slightly), so have our expenses (Finns education)…every purchase has a purpose (if not a dual one)… Whether it be for necessity or fun, everything is accounted for. But that doesn’t equate nothingness…

Living within your means or more appropriately, on a budget, doesn’t have to mean living without life’s little luxuries….grow your own flowers and enjoy freshly cut flowers all summer through!

It’s the simple things that make life, lovely…the first day of school, watching your child play on the playground with his new school mates and flowers in the garden…

finn at school

flowers in the garden

enjoy.