garlic scape pesto

lovely garlic scape pesto

Garlic lovers, this one is for you! While trying to come up with something creative to do with my garlic scapes, I came upon this recipe for a garlic scape pesto dip. This wasn’t exactly what I was after, but the “pesto” got me on the right track and I riffed a little and came up with the following. If you love rich garlic and basil pesto flavor, this dish will definitely satisfy!

Garlic Scape Pesto
serves 4
Pasta or pierogies for four
1 bunch garlic scapes from your local box (or about 8-10 scapes)
20 large basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts
2 tblspoons butter
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 large tomato or 6 cherry tomatoes (or more if you like- this is what I had on hand)
¾ cup- 1 cup olive oil, as needed
salt to taste

1. Cook your pasta or your pierogies just before you prepare the sauce and have them on hand.

2. Toast your walnut pieces by placing them in a dry frying pan (I prefer non-stick for this) over medium heat and tossing frequently until toasted but not burnt, just a few minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

lovely garlic scape pesto

3. Cut your scapes just enough to get them into your food processor, and process well, until the scapes are minced fine.

lovely garlic scape pesto

4. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, saute the minced garlic scapes in your 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring occasionally, for 5- 10 minutes, until tender and very fragrant.

lovely garlic scape pesto

5. While the scapes are sauteing, place your toasted walnuts, basil leaves, and parmesan cheese in your food processor. Turn it on and while the food is being processed, slowly add your olive oil until you get to the consistency of a thick soup or a runny paste. You may need to stop and check and test as you go along.

lovely garlic scape pesto

6. After the scrapes have been sauteing about five minutes, add your tomatoes, stir in well, and allow them to soften.

7. Add your pasta or pierogies to the scrapes and tomatoes, stirring fully and allowing the pasta to reheat.

lovely garlic scape pesto

8. When pasta is warmed through, spoon all of it, with all of the scrapes and tomatoes, into a very large bowl. Pour the basil/walnut mixture over the past and toss very well, allowing it to completely coat, and making sure the scrapes and the basil mix well. Serve immediately.

lovely garlic scape pesto

My husband, who can be quite particular about pasta sauces and the like, was very pleased with this and pointed out that all of these ingredients together would make a nice base for a tomato sauce as well, which I might try sometime soon. I hope you have a chance to make up this relatively simple, delicious dish and just be sure to have your toothbrush handy for afterward! Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

tomato basil cream sauce

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

Sometimes, when you are trying to eat locally and seasonally, it seems you can get into a bit of a rut, and if it’s close to payday or you’re just day or two away from getting your next local box, you can find yourself making the same thing you just made a few days ago. When this happens, its things like sauces that can help spice a meal up. Recently I was making baked chicken and skillet potatoes again, and as we had just had this the week before, I decided to make a sauce to make the meal different and more interesting.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

You can’t get ore summery than fresh, ripe tomatoes off the vine and beautiful fresh green basil. This sauce makes good use of these items, often in abundance at this time of year, by mixing them with some dairy staples of butter, cheese and cream. Easy to make, delicious to eat on just about anything. Enjoy!

Tomato Basil Cream Sauce
1 large fresh tomato or 6 large cherry tomatoes
8 basil leaves
3 Tblsp butter
2 Tblsp cream cheese
1 cup cream (or ½ cup cream, ½ cup milk for a lighter sauce), plus more as needed
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice your tomatoes and ribbon your basil.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

2. In a large saucepan (I prefer non-stick for sauces but I know some people shy away from using teflon), over medium heat, saute the tomatoes and basil in one tablespoon of your butter for just a few minutes, until the tomatoes are tender.

3. Spoon your tomatoes and basil mixture into your food processor and puree. Set aside.

4. Return the saucepan to medium heat, and add your remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, as well as the two tablespoons of cream cheese, to the pan and, using a small whisk, stir constantly until completely softened.

5. Gradually add your cream (and/or milk) to the butter/cream cheese mixture, whisking continually.

6. Add the parmesan cheese, spreading it evenly over the pan, and whisking thuroughly into the sauce until smooth.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

7. Add the tomato/basil mixture and stir in completely. Bring up to a gentle simmer on medium low heat for just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until all the ingredients are mixed well. Taste the sauce at this point and check for needed salt and/or pepper.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

If you find the sauce is either too thick, whisk in a little more milk; if too thin, add another tablespoon of cream cheese. This sauce is versatile and, if thinned with another ½ cup of milk or tomato sauce, could be a great topping for pasta as well. Bon Appetit!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

early summer saute

lovely saute

What’s great about the growing season kicking into gear is that you get to just open up your fridge and pick from a great green bounty, chop stuff up, and saute it in a pan with a bit of fat, a bit of acid, and a bit of seasoning, and you’ve got a fabulous dish. If you want to make it a meal, just add a bit of protein into the mix. The following is one such dish I whipped up this week from goodies in my local box, and you could easily make this a one-pot meal by adding cooked chicken or cannalleni beans.

Early Summer Saute
serves two as a side dish

lovely saute

1 tblspn butter or olive oil
1 tsp diced garlic
3 green onions
4 asparagus spears
4 mushrooms
1 zucchini
1 tsp dried basil (or fresh basil would be even better!)
juice of ¼ of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese (optional)

lovely saute

1. Dice your green onion, white and green parts included. In a large saucepan, saute your garlic and green onion your butter on medium low heat until the white part of the onion starts to get a little glassy.

lovely saute

2. While your onions are sauteing, slice your other veggies into nice bite-size pieces (see above photo).

lovely saute

3. Add your the asparagus, mushrooms, and zucchini to the pan. Sprinkle your basil evenly over your veggies and stir. Saute on medium heat for five minutes.

4. Add lemon juice and continue cooking until the veggies are tender-crisp, no more than 10 minutes all together.

lovely saute

Salt and pepper to taste to finish this easy early summer side dish, and if you have some real Parmesan cheese to shave on top, even better! Bon Appetit!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

pita pizzas with mushrooms and fresh basil

 

lovely pita

I love quick lunch ideas, and I also love pizza. When I saw the gorgeous head of fresh, live basil in my local box this week, I started dreaming of tasty Italian dishes. When I saw we had more fresh Shitake mushrooms, I got thinking of how tasty those two things would be on a pizza pie! Making pizza dough from scratch is far from “quick”, and buying those pre-made crusts is a waste of money and take up too much room to store, in my opinion.

lovely pita

Solution? Pitas! If you have a brand of pita you enjoy, keep them in the freezer and they’ll be ready to act as personal pizza crusts when you need a healthy, quick meal. We love the whole wheat pitas we buy from Melitsa’s, they are restaurant quality and bake up soft and yummy.

Pita Pizzas

2 Whole wheat pizzas

½ -3/4 cup pasta sauce of choice (I like a premade tomato pesto for pizzas)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 Tblspns butter

1Tblspn garlic, diced very fine

10 shitake mushrooms

6 large fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

lovely pita

2. Slice your mushrooms nice and thin. Heat a small saucepan on medium heat and saute garlic in butter until butter just begins to brown. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, just for a few minutes (don’t overcook as they will also be baking in the oven).

lovely pita

3. Ribbon your basil leaves. (To ribbon, layer leaves on top of one another and roll tightly. Take a small, sharp paring knife and make quick, thin cuts to the rolled-up leaves, producing pretty basil “ribbons”).

lovely pita

4. Once your oven is ready, remove your pitas from the freezer. Sprinkle just a few drops of water on a baking sheet and place the pitas on top of the water drops (this helps keep them soft and not dried out). Put sauce to your liking on the pitas.

lovely pita

5. Put most of the cheese on the sauce, saving a few pinches to sprinkle on top of the toppings. Evenly distribute your sauteed mushrooms and garlic, as well as your basil ribbons, on the cheese, and cover with just a few shreds of cheese. Add some fresh ground pepper to taste.

lovely pita
lovely pita

6. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. I you like nice browned, bubbly cheese like we do, switch the oven to a medium broil for the last two minutes (but be careful you don’t burn your hard-made pizzas!). Serve immediately.

lovely pita

You may find, depending on your pita size and your appetite, that you really need more than one per person. They go great with a green salad or a bowl of soup. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

soup


I bow down to the inventor of the slow cooker. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen on various projects yesterday afternoon, including some slow cooker prep for tonight’s supper. But I came home at 4:30 today and dinner was on its way to being ready. Makes for a ridiculously less harried evening when dinner is already done. And the clean up is negligible, too. All I had to do was slice up a Golden Hearth whole wheat loaf (best bakery in town, I say) and butter it. Done.

Lots of good bag items ended up in this soup — several carrots, the leek and all the spinach — so it’s super healthy, but filling and hearty, too. And there is a load of room to play and make substitutions. You really can’t mess it up.

And I do believe if I whiz some of this up in my Magic Bullet, I may have a nice bowl of healthy mush that, if I am lucky, my little one will eat for dinner tomorrow.

Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup (from Canadian Living)

6 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped (omit to keep it vegetarian)
2 onions, chopped (I used the whole leek instead, green and white parts only)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped (didn’t have any, so skipped it)
2 carrots, sliced
1 tsp dried basil (if you have an herb garden, use fresh and add it at the end)
1 tsp oregano (ditto)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) white kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I soak my own and freeze them in can-sized portions — for a how-to, click here)
4 cups (1 L) sodium-reduced chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup)
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes (I had some romas that needed using up so I skinned them and added them whole)
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup (175 mL) tubetti or other small pasta (I used orzo)
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh parsley (forgot to add this, darn)
1/4 cup (50 mL) tomato paste (oops, forgot this too)
1/3 cup (75 mL) grated Parmesan cheese (I added a parmesan rind from the freezer instead — this is a great trick for adding flavour to soups. Omit the parm for a vegan soup)

In skillet, fry bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; transfer to slow cooker. Drain fat from skillet. Fry onions, garlic, celery, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.

Mash 1 cup (250 mL) of the beans; add to slow cooker along with remaining beans. Add stock, tomatoes and bay leaf; cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until vegetables are tender.

crock pot

In pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until tender but firm, about 8 minutes. Drain and add to slow cooker. Add parsley and tomato paste. (Here’s where I also added the whole bunch of spinach, stemmed).

Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes or until hot. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

soup bowl

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

pizza night


Friday night is pizza night in our house. By the end of the week, I’m tired of thinking of meal ideas and this way, I always know what we’re having. The only decision to make is what toppings we’re going to use. Dough takes five minutes to make and if I’m organized, I make it ahead and freeze it. This way all I have to do is take it out of the freezer Friday morning and put it in the fridge to thaw.

Tonight’s pie was topped with grilled eggplant and a couple of chopped tomatoes from this week’s bag, along with some mozzarella from Millbank Cheese, a handful of chopped green olives, and some fresh basil from the garden. That, a bottle of wine, and a baby tucked into bed and, ah, the weekend had begun.

watermelon

Grilled eggplant is super versatile. Here’s what I like to do: mince a clove of garlic and mix it with a couple of glugs of olive oil, then paint it on both sides of an eggplant that’s been sliced either vertically or into rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and throw said slices onto the barbie (or into a 400F oven) and grill/roast until starting to char. Let cool somewhat and chop.

eggplant

As I said, we put ours on pizza. You could also throw it into a food processor with some tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you’d have baba ghanouj (perfect for dipping those carrots and beans from this week’s bag into).

Another option: Mix it with a handful of both mint and parsley, a few more glugs of olive oil and some red wine vinegar. Use it like bruschetta topping or mix it with pasta.

But really, nothing beats homemade pizza on a Friday night.

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.