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!

Advertisements

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.  

Black Thumb, Your Days Are Numbered

I was recently hit with the notion that I wanted to start a vegetable garden.  I get this idea in January when it’s cold and snowy and I’m dreaming of summer and fresh tomatoes.  I started pinning stuff to a “Gardening” board on Pinterest, which is what every great farmer does, I’m sure.  Then in March, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, which really sealed the deal.  It called out to the hippie in me that wanted to go back to the land and live off of it or something (glossing over the hard work and dirty parts, of course).  I also caught myself wondering what would we do if the zombie apocalypse happened?!  Shouldn’t I know how to grow tomatoes and make cheese??  Obviously when the world is ending, these will be my two primary concerns.  My husband tells me I would most assuredly not make it.

My husband grew up on a farm.  They raised cattle for awhile, but also had what they call a small vegetable garden.  The chores I was complaining about as a kid pale in comparison.  He is now nostalgic for this life, which I for one think he had his memory cleaned out somewhere around 18.  Now that we have a daughter I find myself wanting her to understand where her food comes from.  It’s important to me that she eats healthy, and moreover enjoys it.

Okay, so you have to understand something about me.  I’m a city girl.  I don’t do dirt.  Or bugs.  (I have Pinterest nightmares of tomato plant beetles and slugs.)  I think food comes from a store.  I’m that girl that kills cacti.  This was made for me:

someecard

Anyway, you get the picture.  But, I am committed to this goal, no matter how outside my comfort zone I am headed.  I’m going to do it, damnit, and it’s going to be successful!  (I say this now inside the air conditioning in front of a computer.)

My husband agrees to lend his expertise and after quite a bit of procrastination, more than a few panic attacks, and some borrowed horse shit/dirt (technical term), we are, sigh, moving forward.  There are now seven hideously orange buckets on my front lawn.  Why the front yard, you ask?  Vegetables need full sun, didn’t you know?  And apparently orange buckets are cheapest (?!) and this is a “temporary” container garden so as to not ruin the lawn, you know, in case you aren’t committed it doesn’t work out.

Container Vegetable Garden | Jersey Up!

Dear neighbors, don’t judge me.

And so, we wait.  Wait for death (more likely) or vegetables (hopefully).  At least the automatic lawn sprinklers will give me an edge.  And I’m not even going to talk about the manure issue/benefit.  I will be sure to keep you posted on all my gardening pitfalls.  Friends, there is nothing a little self-deprication can’t fix!

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Vegetables

Mac n Cheese with Roasted Vegetables | Jersey Up!

I used to not be a big fan of vegetables.  Sure they’re good for you but they just tasted so blah.  Maybe that’s because I always ate them from a can?  Either way, I discovered a new love for vegetables when they’re grilled.  Seriously.  Sprinkle some olive oil, salt and pepper on any vegetable and pop it on the grill.  Instant delicious.

I’m also a huge fan of frozen vegetables.  They are just as flavorful and healthy as fresh, and often come pre-chopped.  Can’t beat that if you’re in a time crunch.

This mac and cheese recipe was pretty good, and pretty easy to follow.  I do love me some “fake” mac and cheese from the blue box (who am I kidding?) but homemade sauce really can’t be beat.  This recipe contains no butter so it is certainly healthier for you (not to mention all the vegetables).  But I was missing the butter.  A lot.  Hey, I’m honest.

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 diced red pepper
1 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup olive oil (plus some for sprinkling veggies)
2 cups of your favorite pasta (I did shells.  Mac and cheese always has to be shells.)
1 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1.5 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar (or really, any cheese you like)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (if you’d like to bake it)

Directions:
1. Combine broccoli, red pepper and carrots in a grill basket and sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Grill until cooked through.  (Or you can bake at 400 for 20 minutes if you’re not a grilling person.  Or it’s raining.)
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Start heating your oil in a nonstick pan.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
4. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly add milk, stirring until sauce has thickened.
5. Take sauce off the heat and add cheese, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper.  (Salt and pepper too if you like.)
6. Combine sauce, pasta and veggies.  Eat outside with a glass of wine or a beer…or you can put everything into a 13×9 baking dish, cover with breadcrumbs and bake for just a few minutes in the broiler.

I thought this was a great seasonal transition meal.  Get to use the grill to celebrate summer, but still has a comfort food taste of winter.  Enjoy!