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Tag Archives: garden

Let’s Hear it for Simplicity

One of the best things about having a garden is being able to enjoy foods at their absolute freshest–moments after being plucked from the plant.  This past week, we picked our purple pepper and enjoyed an impromptu snack with just a pinch of salt.  We harvested our tiny crop of sugar snap peas and popped them in our mouths without any adornment or cooking.  And this morning, I collected a handful of juicy, ripe raspberries and ate them for breakfast seconds later atop some plain Greek yogurt.  As the tin sign in my guest bedroom says, sometimes it’s nice to “Live Simply.”


Fishing for Compliments? Make Farfalle with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon!

Yes, we used basil from our garden in today’s featured recipe, but this dish is not about basil; the star is smoked salmon. If you had told me a week ago–heck, a day ago–that I would be feasting on smoked salmon, my response would have been, “Ewww.”

I am not particularly fond of fish. Tuna fish mixed with Miracle Whip and onions has been the extent of my seafood consumption for most of my life. Sometimes I can eat shrimp, but other times it grosses me out. Especially when there are feet. Or frightening long antennae that touch me from the plate (see picture of Scary Prawn). I have been trying to eat more fish, though, because I know it is healthy. In the past year I have developed a taste for the fish sliders at Seeburger’s Cheeseburgers in Mount Clemens, and I have tried various fish tacos that I truly like. I can also eat fish and chips, as long as I have unlimited tartar sauce. I know that pretty much negates the healthiness of the fish, as does the deep-frying, but I’m taking baby steps.

I was not particularly interested when Bill decided to smoke some salmon in the smoker that his parents got him for Christmas. I have tried smoked salmon in the past and do not care for it unless it is disguised with mounds of cream cheese. But, this was the debut of the smoker, and Bill was really into it, so when the fish was done I bravely tried a piece. Surprise: it was tasty and not at all fishy! We have been enjoying it on bagels and crackers with the requisite cream cheese, and the recipe that we discovered last night for dinner was too delicious not to share. The link to the recipe is below.

We have clay soil, so we have not attempted cultivating our own asparagus patch. Therefore, the main veggie in this dish was store-bought. We didn’t actually measure any of the ingredients. We just eyeballed everything according to our taste, and also added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. The result was an incredibly light, fresh dish that we ate as a complete meal. The briny, smokey taste of the salmon is perfect with the lemon and bow-tie pasta. And when you get a chunk of pistachio or sun-dried tomato, it is a happy little surprise. We had seconds, and then thirds, raving all the while. Being that Bill is not big on asparagus, and I previously shunned salmon, this dish was a surprising hit!


Cheater, Cheater, Greek Orzo Salad Eater

Greek Orzo Salad

One of the reasons for my starting this blog was to share recipes using ingredients from my own garden. The downside of using seasonal ingredients is that sometimes my desire to make a certain dish is not in sync with my garden’s production schedule. This necessitates cheating and using store-bought veggies instead, which was the case with the Greek Orzo Salad that I made for the Fourth of July shindig that we had last night. I was looking for something that could feed an undetermined number of people, go well with burgers and hot dogs, and be okay sitting out for a while. So, despite its ethnic name and ingredients, I found this to be the perfect side dish to help celebrate our country’s birthday. A trip to Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace took care of the produce this time around. I plan to make this again when our own cukes and tomatoes are ready, but I’m posting the recipe now, because people asked about it and eagerly took home almost all the leftovers –I made a bit much!

There are several variations on this recipe out there, so modify it however you see fit. I began with one that I found on a couple of years back and put my own little spin on it. Here is the link to the original, and below is how I tweaked it to my own taste in an attempt to feed possibly 15-20 people:



• 2 cups uncooked orzo

• 3 tbsp butter or margarine

• 29 oz water

• 2 (6.5 oz) jars marinated artichoke hearts

• 1 tomato, seeded and chopped

• 2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped

• ½ large red onion, chopped

• 1 ½ cups feta cheese

• 1 (2 oz) can black olives, drained

• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

• Juice of ½ lemon

• ½ tsp dried oregano

• Approx. 3 oz Italian or Greek salad dressing (I had some left over from lunch at a local pizzeria and decided to toss it in)


1. Melt butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and sauté until lightly browned.

2. Stir in water and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Take off heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside until mostly cooled.

3. Drain and chop artichoke hearts, reserving marinade.

4. In a large bowl, combine artichokes, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives, parsley and lemon juice. When orzo has cooled, add it to the mixture and toss everything together.

5. Chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

6. Just before serving, drizzle about 3 oz of artichoke marinade and the Italian or Greek dressing over salad and toss again.

The Side Dish Sidekick / Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

As I write this, it is that time of day again:  time to come up with a side dish for dinner.  Bill is the main cook in our household and a proud carnivore.  He has a knack for experimenting and putting flavors together, and is one of those who likes to whip up a breakfast of omelets, bacon and hash browns.  I love big breakfasts, but I am also good with just cereal.  Before he came along, my only actual cooking consisted of three things: scrambled eggs, spaghetti (although I once set water on fire making it), and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I grew up in a house with an electric stove, but after college I lived in an apartment with a gas stove. I never used it once because I was convinced that it would explode.  That’s when I learned how to make grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron.  On an ironing board.

Being an animal lover, I also don’t like to touch raw meat or even think about it.  Ground beef and boneless chicken breasts are my limit, and even then, I have to go into a deep state of denial about what it actually is.  I would be a vegetarian, but I have an unfortunate tendency toward anemia and cheeseburgers.   So, nowadays when we make dinner, Bill usually grills or otherwise prepares the meat, and I am his Side Dish Sidekick.  This is why I enjoy the garden so much:  I use whatever is abundant in the garden and incorporate it with other ingredients we have on hand.  I have even learned to enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.

Since not much is ready to pick yet, I have been building my part of the menu around our fresh garden herbs. Below is the link to what has been my go-to side dish for a few years now.  It is as simple as making a boxed noodle or rice dish, but without the powdery, MSG-laden flavor packets.  I have been substituting I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter for the real butter, and sometimes I use vegetable stock in place of the chicken broth. Admittedly, it is not something I can make with an iron, but fortunately I have made my peace with the gas stove.


Growin’, Growin’, Growin’

We have a bit of a lull in the garden at the moment, as most of our veggies are in the flowering or just-beginning-to-ripen stages.  Thought I’d post a few pics that I took today instead of a recipe…a little snack for the eyes, rather than the tummy.

Party Store Strawberry Shortcake

Our strawberry patch is in full swing, so I’ll be posting some of our tasty creations over the next week or so.

A few years back, we planted a couple of everbearing strawberry plants along the fence in our main garden.  Because they send out runners, they soon threatened to take over, so we dug them up and gave them their own bed along the side of our house.  They have spread and flourished, and we look forward to strawberry picking every June.

We harvested the first berries this year on June 5th, and that evening we were lazily contemplating how to enjoy them.  Strawberry shortcake sounded like the perfect choice, but neither Bill nor I felt like baking or hauling our weary selves to a 24-hour grocery store to buy pound cake.  Bill mustered up the energy to check out the local convenience stores to find something that would serve as a vehicle for our strawberries.  After four cake-less stops, he finally came back with a few Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Rolls and a can of whipped topping from a nearby party store.  (A trip to Meijer would have been easier, but I digress…)

I threw some of our freshly hulled and halved strawberries into the Magic Bullet blender (love that thing), along with a teaspoon or so of sugar.  I pulsed it just enough to slightly chop up the berries and make them a bit saucy.   I cut each Little Debbie roll in half, attractively arranged them in a fancy glass bowl for each of us, and topped them with the strawberries and whipped cream.  Not too shabby for a spontaneous–and cheap–late-night dessert!