Tag Archives: Gardening

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Mini Turkey Lasagnas & the Woes of Summertime

Summer has never been my favorite time of year (except for summer of 2008—yeah that was fun!).  Because I have crazy sensitive skin, summertime has become synonymous with sunburn. If that’s not bad enough…I’m allergic to sunscreen.

This year–in particular–has been especially difficult because of the high temperatures and terrible humidity. Not to mention the drought.  Okay…I mentioned it.  We need rain!

In my opinion, the only thing good about summer (as an adult) is the vegetables.  I love being able to just step outside my home and come back inside–into the air conditioning–with a basket full of peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and herbs.

Some vegetables from the garden

I am especially proud of my shallots.   I am an amazing shallot grower, apparently.

beautiful shallots

In fact, I’m so proud of my shallots, I tear up.  Literally.  They make me cry!  I’m not sure what the reason is, but these tiny, purple-hued beauties make me bawl worse than a baby!

Their crying power is way stronger than that of any onion.  But, they taste incredible; so the crying is worth it.  I guess.

When I woke up today, I planned on going to the gym.  But those plans quickly changed.  The weather report said it was 71degrees outside, and I knew I better take advantage of that!  I decided to clean up my gardens and plant a few more cone flowers, mums and burning bushes.

When I finished, I came back inside with all this:

 

and had Lasagna on my mind.

You see, I love lasagna.  A lot.  In fact, I can’t be trusted around it.

Knowing this, I decided to make mini lasagnas instead of a giant pan full.  They’d be perfectly portioned and I wouldn’t have to worry about eating more than my share.

Instead of noodles, I used wonton wrappers.  This isn’t anything new, and I’ve seen tons of stuff made with the little dough squares–from raviolis to tacos…to pie crusts!  How versatile! 

I figured I’d use the wonton wrappers instead of traditional pasta for three reasons.

  1. There is no need to pre-cook the wonton wrappers, so I won’t burn my fingers.  I always burn my fingers on lasagna noodles!
  2. The wrappers fit perfectly into a muffin pan.
  3. Wonton wrappers are relatively low calorie.  They ring in at 20 calories/each.

I also decided to use ground turkey meat.  I cooked the meat with finely diced green bell peppers, basil, oregano, lots of garlic, and a bunch of finely diced mushrooms.

Because I’ve been scaling back the amount of meat I cook with, adding the mushrooms allowed me to use less turkey and also stretched the meat into multiple meals–instead of just the one.  In fact, I have made these lasagnas twice this week, and still have over half a pound of the cooked meat left over (frozen, for some other time).

I turned the tomatoes, garlic and basil into a simple–and flavorful–sauce (no real recipe, sorry!  I just tossed stuff together, blended it up and then let it cook for about 10 min. to reduce).

And made a mixture of basil, cottage cheese (3/4 c.) and Parmesan cheese (1/4 c.).  [Enough for 6 mini lasagnas]

I then layered everything together in a muffin pan which I sprayed with a little olive oil.  I started with a wonton wrapper, added a little sauce, cottage cheese mixture, meat, more sauce…and repeat.  I then topped the mini lasagnas with a little shredded cheese and some dried herbs.

The lasagnas were popped into a 375 degree F oven, and were baked for about 20 minutes–or until they started to get a little browned.

I let them cool in the pan for a good 10 minutes before I popped them out–simply using a fork.

 

Each mini lasagna was a little over 150 calories, so I had two.  And I’ve got to tell you…I enjoyed every single one of those delicious calories!

I plan on making another batch this weekend, but instead of baking them, I’m going to freeze them.  If all works out, I think they’d be a great way to preserve my garden’s bounty! :)

caramelized onion, fennel and mushroom puff pastry tart

Mushroom Puff Pastry Tarts

Sometimes I feel lazy.  Yup.  I said it.  Lazy.

I don’t feel like cooking much; but I don’t feel like going out, either.  I just want to sit at home with a giant glass of wine, enjoy life, and eat mushroom puff pastry tarts.  What?  That’s weird?  hmmph.

Puff pastry is one of my favorite things.  I don’t really make it myself though–remember, I’m lazy–and puff pastry is a lot of work.  Instead, I buy it from the freezer section at the supermarket.

This particular recipe is quite delicious and has many different layers of flavor.  I actually got the idea for this recipe last week when I made Ina Garten’s Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts (recipe HERE).

Tomato and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Tart (Ina Garten’s Recipe)–spiced up with a few Indian flavors!

These tarts were amazing, and the idea for the crust–or tart shell–was quite genius!  I couldn’t wait to try my own version as soon as possible!

My Mushroom Puff Pastry Tart combines caramelized onions and fennel with tender mushrooms, goat cheese, and a creamy, flavorful sauce.  They’re divine!  …Especially paired with a fabulous glass of wine!

The idea to use mushrooms and a cream sauce as a topping stemmed from a fabulous olive oil I received in the mail last week: Devo Olive Oil Company’s Wild Mushroom and Sage Olive Oil.

I was super excited to try this oil!  Devo makes some pretty cool balsamic vinegar and olive oils.

Dark Chocolate Balsamic, Coconut White Balsamic and my new Wild Mushroom and Sage Olive Oil

Last year I was in Branson visiting relatives, and my cousin Nikki and I did a lot of wine tasting.  We also ventured to the Landing (Nikki is the manager at Bath and Body Works @ the Landing–if you’re in Branson, stop in and tell her hello!) and into Devo’s shop.

It was so neat!  They had tons of vinegar and oils to sample.  I probably drank 1200 calories of just olive oil!  No lie.  They were all so good.  It was hard to choose, but Piyush and I came home with a Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic (my favorite!), Dark Chocolate Balsamic and Coconut White Balsamic.

I can’t wait to visit Branson again…and Devo will definitely be on my list of places to stop.  I’m such a food-nerd.

Anyway…the Wild Mushroom and Sage oil was really nice.  It lent a good flavor to my aromatics, and wasn’t too overpowering (sage can sometimes be a little overwhelming, in my opinion).

To make the tarts, I cut circles out of puff pastry–using plates as stencils.

I then traced a smaller circle inside the cut-out and poked holes in it with a fork, and tossed them in the fridge until I was ready for them.

Puff pastry involves a lot of butter, and you’ll want to keep that butter as chilled as possible.  If it warms up and melts into the dough, you won’t have that gorgeous, flaky and puffy crust.

I caramelized some sliced onions and fennel using the wild mushroom and sage olive oil.

Caramelized Onions and Fennel

Cooked up some mushrooms and shallots, also in the wild mushroom and sage olive oil.

Shallots– similar to an onion, but much more mild.

And I whisked together a creamy mushroom-flavored sauce.

Once all the layers to my tart were ready, I began to put everything together.  This recipe seems like a lot, I know…but I promise it’s not.  It’s a perfect meal for a lazy night at home.

I removed the puff pastry from the refrigerator and topped each circle with a little crumbled goat cheese.

then, tossed on the onion/fennel mixture.

And finally, topped with the mushrooms.

I baked the tarts in a oven heated to 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes, and when they were done they looked like this:

all puffed up!

I spooned some mushroom-cream sauce over the tarts and garnished with a little extra crumbled goat cheese and chopped parsley.

printer-friendly recipe

These were perfect for a nice, weekend lunch; but would also make amazing appetizers!  Use a smaller stencil, and you could get about 16 from one sheet of puff pastry!

Yum!

On another note, want to see some of my garden’s progress?  Of course you do! (haha…)

My treasured lavender plant. This is definitely my “baby” of the garden.

marigold! Reminds me of India….

peony–after a light rain

This is the same rose that budded in December—in Minnesota! It’s actually thriving now, surprisingly!

garlic, onions, shallots and some potatoes—growing good!

Yes, I grow awesome dandelions!!! lol

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Spring has Sprung! Garden Progress and a New Wreath

This Winter/Spring has been the weirdest.  I mean, really, we used our snow blower only twice this year- and even then it wasn’t entirely necessary.  With unusually warm temperatures in Minnesota, my perennial gardens were blooming…with weeds!  In early March!

The dandelions have begun to take over!   Last year when everything in the backyard was weeded properly, I mulched everything really well.  Before mulching, I didn’t lay down any sort of weed barrier.  Big mistake.  I battled the tenacious (and quite vicious, if you ask me!) Canadian Thistle all summer long.  I felt like I was fighting this losing battle, and gardening just wasn’t fun anymore.  I had to be outside every single day (sometimes two or three times a day) attacking this stupid weed.  I tried everything (nearly), and even asked the local garden center what to do.  Their recommendation:  Total Vegetation Killer.   Yikes!  I didn’t want to go that route, so this year I decided to rake up all the mulch I laid down last year and put down some landscaping fabric.  It was a lot of work, but my super awesome friend, Megan, came over to help:

Megan helping lay the fabric

We managed to finish two of the biggest areas—in a little over 2 hours!  We were rockin’ it!  It was actually kind of fun, and I hope it really does keep the weeds from taking over this year.

When we purchased our house, nearly two years ago, both the front yard and the backyard looked like hell.  I mean, it really looked like a wild jungle.  A single, 80 year old lady owned our place and I think all the gardens became too much for her to handle.  Heck!  I’m not even 30 and they were too much for me to handle!!!

Here’s a few photos of the backyard from last year—after everything was pretty much cleaned up.

This looks small, I know. It's not though. It is probably at least 6' wide. The raised bed that's in there is a 4'x4' if that gives any idea to the actual size of this garden.

This was the worst. I'm not real sure why they decided to build the fence like they did and leave that portion of the yard unfenced, but it is a HUGE area...and the weeds love it there. I'm thinking of planting a pine tree in that empty space (which is bigger than it looks).

This area still looks a little wild. I'm going to get rid of all that green stuff in the front part. It's invasive and I hate it. I don't know what it is...

I've tackled this area already this spring....fabric laid down, just need to mulch. And possibly divide that hydrangea?

I laid fabric on the backside of this garden last year...and the thistles were no longer a problem. I'm hoping that's true for everything else this year.

I was excited that my new home had all these beautiful flowers and plants, and I had all these big ideas about how pretty it was going to look when I was done with everything.  I knew nothing about gardening, couldn’t tell the difference between some of the flowers and the weeds, and very quickly became discouraged.  I didn’t know where to start and the further I got into the project, the bigger the project seemed.  We had a landscaper come out and tell me what things were (and they did that for free!), then we decided to hire him to clean everything up in the backyard so that I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed.  We were so happy with his work that we hired him again this year to do our front yard (which still looks like a jungle!).  Now I just have to keep up with everything…

Do any of you have giant perennial gardens?  How do you keep them (semi)weed-free?  How about veggie gardens?  Our gardens in the front yard are so full of stuff that laying landscape fabric down is not really an option….and it kind of makes me crazy thinking about how I’m going to keep up with it all.

I’m excited though…hopefully my veggie garden will do good this year and I can make salads, like this:

with things I grew myself.

I was so happy last year when my first tomato grew!  Unfortunately my garden struggled…but I got a few things out of it.

On a totally different topic, with the arrival of spring, comes a new wreath for the door!

I bought the wreath, itself, at a garage sale last year.  For a dollar, I believe.  It’s a brown, straw form.  Although I bought this pre-made, it looks easy enough to make on your own.  Basically all that grass looking stuff is just hot-glued into/onto the form.  I then added the sprig of purple beads and the butterflies.  I thought it needed a little somethin’ extra.

Before I added the embellishments to it, the wreath had been sitting on my counter…taking up space.  My cat, Penny, decided she liked it:

Penny, nesting.

She thinks she owns everything…

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It’s Clemen-time!

You know what I love about winter?  It’s not the snow or the cold (actually, I hate both of those things).  It’s not even the holidays.  Nope.  What I love most about winter is the clementines!

Look at this guy:

One bite…and I was in love.  It didn’t stand a chance.  The only problem?  (aside from the price $$$) I don’t have nearly enough to last the week!  I love clementines and we try to keep them on hand—they’re the perfect snack.  I bought these guys from the co-op, and they rock my world!  They are a million times more scrumptious than the “cutie” ones we usually buy from the grocery store.

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to shop at our local co-op, The Good Food Store.  You can find practically anything there!  It kind of reminds me of whole foods, actually—it’s just smaller, filled with local produce, and the people are so much more friendly.  All good things!

I had a few items I wanted to pick up including romaine, herbs, beans, salsa and some cheese.  I’ve got bean taco salads and a pasta dish on the menu for this week, and I’m hoping that a little extra planning will really make dinner preparations seem a lot less tedious.

Since I was out and about, I figured I might as well make a quick stop at Goodwill.  Deals wait for no-one, you know! (haha!)

I want to find a tiny desk for our laptop, but had no luck today.  Instead, I did find an amazing, little serving dish for $3 that will be awesome for chutneys or salsas!

How cute is that?!

After I finished up at Goodwill, I stopped in at Michaels to get some knitting supplies.  I’ve always wanted to learn to knit and never really knew how to make that happen.  I thought about taking classes, but with my work schedule it’s not that easy to commit.  I don’t have a set schedule and it’s hard to get certain days off in during the week.  So, I decided I’d buy some needles and yarn and check out youtube.

It's not much...but it's a start.

Aside from knitting, I’m also doing a little “gardening”…I have green onions growing on top of my refrigerator!

I just threw some old roots in a jar…and wham!  I’ve got onions!

Does anyone know if I can grow other herbs this way?  I don’t think they get the greatest sunlight, but they really seem to be thriving!

Now, it’s Greek for dinner (we got some take out from a local restaurant we haven’t tried before), then some mind numbing television (Teen Mom)  before I shower and head to bed!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!!!