Cancan can!

The fruits (and vegetables) of last year’s gardening and canning labors:

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From left to right on each shelf, starting with top shelf:

  • Green beans, catsup
  • Relish, pear preserves, more green beans
  • Tomatoes w/fennel, onion, and garlic, straight up tomatoes
  • Pickled beets, pickled onions, pears, more green beans

We grew everything pictured, except for the pears, which came from Matthew’s grandparents’ neighbors’ tree.  Matthew’s mom did most of the preserving and canning last summer and fall, since we were a little bit busy with this.  We contributed the green beans, lest you think we were total slackers.

Previous canning posts on HerGreenLife
Salsa, salsa, salsa
Pear preserves
We now return to our regularly schedule posting

Garden goods

Despite the craziness of having a baby in the middle of the summer, we managed to have a great year garden-wise.  Understandably, my involvement in the actual gardening, and in putting up the food, was even more limited than usual.  I just sat on my butt all day cared for a very demanding baby and enjoyed eating the garden’s bounty.  We canned some green beans, and my mother-in-law canned tons of tomatoes and froze lots of other veggies for us.

Last week, we made one of our favorite soups, Country Vegetable Soup with Pasta, almost entirely with garden goods, including fresh tomatoes in mid-December (picked green before the frost in early November, and ripened slowly inside since then).

Homegrown goods in our soup included leeks, tomatoes (fresh, not canned), onion, celery, sweet potatoes (subbed for carrots in the recipe, because that’s what we had), green beans (from frozen), and basil (also frozen) for the pesto.  We didn’t have any zucchini, so we just subbed more of the other veggies. Hearty and delicious, and so fun to have grown almost all of the ingredients!

In the end, the only non-garden item in the soup, other than the pasta, was the garlic.  We had a nice garlic harvest, but at the rate we go through garlic, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to grow enough (though Matthew’s working on it 🙂 ).

Eating in

A year ago yesterday, we donned our wedding attire and headed out to celebrate our anniversary at one of St. Louis’ top-ranked, award-winning restaurants.  A place known for a small, seasonal menu, top quality ingredients, and prices to match.

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these food snobs connoisseurs found that the dinner did not live up to the hype.  Our meal was good, but nothing to write home about.  We ordered our standard “a few dishes to share,” but Matthew felt the atmosphere and attitude of the staff was not conducive to this, which further downgraded the experience.

Enter last night, and a much better anniversary dinner in our own kitchen, lovingly prepared by chef Matthew: marinated tofu and pear salad, pumpkin lasagna, and apple pie for dessert.*  Complete with candles, wine, and a nice, relaxed atmosphere, we agreed it was a major upgrade from last year.  That type of a dinner for two would easily cost $70+.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner for a fraction of the price, with most of a large pan of lasagna to enjoy later in the week.

While having a baby requires compromises and cutting back in some areas, we’re finding it’s essential to continue some activities from before baby.  For us, growing, cooking, and eating amazing food (okay, mostly Matthew on the “growing” aspect) fall into that category.  Yes, we are both exhausted and time is precious, but for us, this is worth it.  While in some ways it makes life more crazy, in other ways it helps preserve our sanity.


*Meal ingredients from the garden: mixed greens for the salad, “pumpkin” puree (technically some variety of winter squash), onions, Swiss chard, and sage.  Other local ingredients: pears and apples.

I’m planning a full recipe post later, but we adapted this recipe to make our pumpkin lasagna, using our homemade pasta for the noodles.

Retrospective menu

I fell off the cooking wagon for a couple of weeks, but I got back in the swing of things last Thursday night with — hmm, now I can’t quite remember.  Ah, right, lentil sloppy joes.  And I roasted some broccoli and cauliflower for a side dish — delicious fresh out of the oven, but not so great as leftovers.

I opened a jar of our canned tomatoes for the sloppy joes.  I saved some of the tomatoes and used them to make County Vegetable Soup with Pasta on Friday night.  This recipe comes pretty close to what I made — the main difference is that my recipe calls for pesto as a garnish.  Also, I used whole wheat shells for the pasta, which I cooked separately and added to the bowls when serving to keep them from getting mushy.

I love sitting down to dinner and doing a tally of all the garden and local produce in the meal.  The soup was a great one for this: the leeks, carrots, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, and basil for the pesto came from our garden, and the cabbage was locally grown (we didn’t have much luck growing cabbage this fall).  This is a wonderful soup — really hearty and flavorful — perfect for these frigid days.

On Saturday night, I found my cheesy side with a baked macaroni and cheese dish (recipe from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes, our go-to cookbook).  On the side, a serving of steamed, grated beets with butter and salt, as well as a small roasted beet salad.

I finished my cooking spree with Swiss Chard risotto on Sunday night.  Instead of arborio rice, I used oat groats.  Instead of the normal time-intensive risotto procedure of adding small amounts of broth at a time while stirring almost continuously for an hour, I added the liquid in two installments and simmered it with minimal stirring.  The oat groats produced a creamy, hearty risotto, which I paired with roasted root vegetables (garden potatoes and beets, plus local sweet potatoes).  Risotto recipe coming soon, once I get it out of my head and into the computer — which I hope occurs before I forget what I did 😉

Butter with a side of vegetables

If you’re looking for decadent vegetarian comfort food, The Barefoot Contessa’s “Vegetable Pot Pie” is your dish.  While the vegetables make this somewhat healthy, don’t be fooled, it has TONS of butter.  (I’ve concluded that if a recipe doesn’t have at least a pound of butter, it’s not a Barefoot Contessa recipe.)

In our most recent rendition, we made this with vegetables almost entirely from our garden: butternut squash, carrots, onions, potatoes, green beans (subbed for the asparagus), and parsley.  The only non-garden veggies were the fennel (which we tried to grow) and the “small frozen onions” which I really don’t like that much anyway and may just omit next time.

My pastry chef makes the pie crust with 100% whole wheat pastry flour — healthy and so much tastier and more interesting than plain old white flour!

A few notes:

  • We skip the Pernod (an anise flavored liquor).
  • Don’t skip the saffron!!!  It’s pricey, but a little goes a long way — it’s important to the flavor here.
  • To make it vegetarian, we use veggie broth or stock instead of chicken stock.
  • We tend to be generous with the amount of vegetables.
  • To make it healthier, eat a small serving of the pot pie with some lighter side dishes to round out the meal.  I served this with a tomato salad last week.