Lemon Alfredo Veggie Pasta (& one strawberry)

Now that I am actually getting fruit from my garden (no, really!) I am trying to find new ways to eat them fresh.  I realize at some point I’m going to have to can/freeze because I’ll (hopefully) get too much to eat.  But for now I’m enjoying eating what I’ve grown.  It’s really, really cool.

The other day, Norah and I were playing outside and I realized my strawberry plant had the most perfect cutest red strawberry on it!  I really didn’t expect it to fruit this year, so I was shocked.  We picked it, and ate it warm right from the plant.  YUM!

Strawberry Plant | Jersey Up!

Guessing by the face, it’s a little tart.

I also had some crookneck squash to eat, though I wouldn’t recommend eating that right off the plant.  😉  Since I’m not sure if the squash is dying or not, I wanted to rescue the few that “came of age” recently to eat.  (I just made up that gardening phrase, but I really like it!)  We have been eating on a budget lately and I’ve been trying to eat what we actually have in the cabinets (I know, right?) and buying only what’s on sale – with a coupon if we’re lucky.  So I had some lemons, alfredo, pasta and some veggies of course.  This pasta dish I came up with is super yummy!  I love the lemon and alfredo together.  It could easily be a hot or cold pasta dish – main or side.  And of course you can really use whatever kind of veggies you’d like.

Lemon Alfredo Veggie Pasta | Jersey Up!

I love sweet and savory dishes, don’t you?

Lemon Alfredo Veggie Pasta

1lb pasta of your choice
3-4 summer squash and/or zucchini, chopped into even chunks
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
16 oz jar alfredo sauce (store or homemade, whatever ya got)
1 lemon
1 tbsp oil (I used coconut, but you can use whatever you like)*
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Boil pasta, drain and set aside.
2. Zest and juice the lemon (wouldn’t want to be wasteful) and add to your alfredo sauce.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until flavors meld and sauce is hot.  (I also doctor up my alfredo sauce by sautéing some garlic and Italian seasoning before adding the sauce.)
3. Chop up your veggies into even chunks.  Heat up some oil in a nonstick pan and throw the veggies in.  I sauteed the squash and zucchini for awhile before adding the tomatoes since they take much longer.  I also sprinkled them with salt and pepper.
4. Mix it all together with some parmesan cheese.

*Have you ever used coconut oil before?  I hadn’t, but a friend lent me some.  I honestly loved it!  The oil doesn’t burn as quickly in case you have distractions in your kitchen (baby? dog? cats? anyone?) and it doesn’t taste any different than using other vegetable or olive oils.  I will say that it definitely smelled like coconut while cooking, but not while eating.  It is high in saturated fat though, so be sure to use in moderation.  (Just like all the other good stuff.)  Just in case you wanted to try something different – now you know!

Hope you enjoy the lemon alfredo sauce – I will definitely be making it again!

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Garden Woes (Bound to happen, right?)

So, it’s the middle of summer, and here I was thinking I had totally converted my black thumb to green.  I was dreaming of sauce and salsa recipes for canning and feeding my family with fresh vegetables from the, er, driveway.  I mean didn’t you see the cute little tomatoes and peppers on my plants?  And the big green leaves?  Weeelll…………

I mean, it was bound to happen, right?  It was only a matter of time.  Must be because my garden missed me to much to live on without me while I was away.  (We were in the gorgeous Upper Peninsula of Michigan this past week.  Oh, you’ve never heard of it either?)

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

So, several things happened while we were gone.  Hopefully some of you will have some expertise that you can share, and the rest of you can learn right along with me.

Tomatoes
So my cute little green tomatoes are turning into bigger red ones.  (Shocking, I know.)  And then they just went rotten on the bottom.  See?

Blossom End Rot Tomato

Apparently, you can still eat these. Um, no.

After some interneting, I realized that it must be blossom-end rot.  Apparently from moisture issues, usually too much.  Not sure if it rained a lot while we were gone, or if I was watering them too much.  (They were wilty though, promise!)  Luckily, this has happened to only a few tomatoes so far.  Are they all already doomed, or can I save the still green ones?  Has anyone suffered with this same issue?

In unrelated tomato news, my friends and I were out for drinks last night.  She was warning me about tomato worms, and telling me how awful they were and how they’ll completely ruin your plant, and to look out for black seed looking poop.  Sure enough I had SEEN this already and thought it was just dirt.  (Like what do I know?)  She even forced me to look at pictures of the ugly buggers (!) and I about had a panic attack.  I somehow convinced my husband to find and subsequently kill these things before I got home.  I’m not sure how I did that, but I’m NOT complaining.  I shudder to think of finding one still.  Do I have to continue to look for these all the time or do we think they’re completely eradicated and I can stop having nightmares?

Crookneck Squash
So I have two really healthy looking squash on here that I’m planning on picking real soon.  I have read that the more you pick the more they grow – cool!  (Yes, yes, this is all new to me.)  But will you just look at the stem of this plant!

Broken Squash

Yeah, yeah, I have weeding to do. What else is new?

WTF?!  My original idea was to blame the deer, but I think they have enough hostas to eat in my backyard.  Did it just fall over and break?  Is it infected with something?  Can they grow back still or are they totally done forever?

Help me, Garden Guru Friends!

Basil Infused Oil

Basil Infused Oil

Speaking of basil, have you ever made basil infused oil? My husband’s aunt suggested it after I posted about my basil going to seed. Turns out there are multiple uses for this delicious plant.

Just put some of your basil clippings in a jar of cooking oil and allow it to sit on the counter for about a week. Watch for mold though in warmer climates.

Can’t wait to dip some homemade bread into this oil when it’s ready!

Have you ever infused oil? With what? If this turns out well, I’ll want some new ideas!

Stuffed Pesto Chicken

I don’t know about you, but I always have trouble stuffing chicken.  Or any kind of meat, for that matter.  I’m not sure how people get them all pretty and symmetrical looking without the stuffing leaking out.  And then breading it too?!  I’d just as easy buy the frozen ones at the grocery store and call it a day.

But Pinterest, be damned!  You always make things look so easy.  And yummy.  I’ve seen this recipe for Stuffed Pesto Chicken floating around for awhile and decided to try it.  I actually already had all the ingredients – talk about a budget meal!

And, don’t pass out, but I actually followed the directions!  I pounded the chicken to make it flatter.  I even, wait for it, used toothpicks!  But alas, they were a hot mess.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, they tasted deeeeelicious, but the stuffing all leaked out everywhere.  When I tried to roll up the chicken the stuffing squeezed out and I had to stuff it all back in several times.  Even after all that, most of the stuffing leaked out into the chicken juice <shudder> while it was cooking.  Sloppy mess.

Have I mentioned I hate touching raw chicken?  Stuffing and restuffing and rolling and rerolling really tested my comfort zone.

I ended up covering the entire top of the dish with mozzarella cheese and making it a “casserole”.  Extra cheese can fix anything, right?!  They were super yummy, and I’d make them again.  But I need some stuffing chicken advice.  Anyone?  Bueller?

Image

Stuffed Pesto Chicken
Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Ingredients
4 chicken breasts, flattened
4 tbsp sour cream
4 tbsp basil pesto
4 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese + extra for sprinkling on top

Directions
1. Pound chicken breasts individually in a plastic bag with a meat mallet until they are as thin as you can get them.
2. Mix together sour cream, pesto and mozzarella.  I used “heaping” tablespoons as well.  The more stuffing the better right?  (Although this might be my issue…!)
3. Spread mixture onto each chicken breast and roll up.  Put some toothpicks in to hold the shape.
4. Place chicken in a greased glass pan.  Mine all fit in an 8×8.  Bake for 25 minutes at 375˚.
Optional: after about 20 minutes, feel free to sprinkle some extra mozzarella on top if your chicken looks ugly.

This would be a great recipe to freeze either as individual chicken breasts, or as a whole dish.  I didn’t do that this time, but definitely would be easy to do!

Another tip that I got from Kalyn was making a batch of pesto with all your garden basil.  We’ve had just a TON of basil this year and I just can’t eat it all.  I was like, well you can’t freeze basil so I guess it’ll go to waste.  Ah, duh.  I  just pinched off all my flowers on the basil plant and hopefully, assuming I did it correctly, it’ll grow more leaves and I can try my hand at making homemade pesto.  Kalyn has a delicious lemon basil recipe on her site that I can’t wait to try!

Driveway Garden Update

My friend recently told me that my garden was so “city girl” because of the orange buckets.  I had to laugh at this because I thought the orange buckets were so ugly, but my husband insisted on them because they were cheap.  My garden is “city girl” for a variety of other reasons, not the least of which is the weeds.  (Have I mentioned I hate pulling weeds?)

I am continually amazed that the garden does continue to grow despite my lack of skills, ability or positive attitude.  One of my tomatoes is actually RED, too.  It looks like a legitimate tomato that I might eat.  I know this shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does.  

Tomatoes are Red | Jersey Up!

Tomatoes are red, violets are blue…

I also have a few other budding veggies – a few peppers have sprouted, as well as some crookneck squash and my roma tomatoes are getting bigger.  My basil plant has gone to seed (this is a gardening lingo thing I picked up), and so I’m unsure if it’s still edible…thoughts?

Driveway Garden | Jersey Up!

Green roma tomatoes and blurry bell peppers.

Crookneck Squash | Jersey Up!

My husband also built a pretty utilitarian trellis for my cucumbers out of wood scraps we had in the garage.  We were supposed to stake the peonies in the spring, but forgot.  Oops.  Handy though, right?  

Upcycled Cucumber Trellis | Jersey Up!

I’m thinking it’ll look a little less Buffy once there’s cucumbers all over it.

I’m looking forward to eating these vegetables freshly picked.  And trying some canning recipes, though I’m still uncertain if I’ll have enough, even though my husband promises me I’ll have more than I can eat.  

I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do next year, and if I can convince my husband to make me a permanent garden so we can find another use for the hideous buckets.