Sweet Potato, Sausage, and Kale Hash

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Do you ever get bored with breakfast? Lately, I’ve been in a breakfast funk. An egg and cheese just isn’t cutting it for me. I woke up with the need to try something different. ACapture little breakfast/brunch place in our town has a delicious sweet potato and beet hash with a sunny side up egg on top that gave me inspiration. Hash’s (hashes?) are so underrated!

I like to freeze kale from my garden in tiny little portions. For meals like this, its easy to pop a bag open and toss right in – a little extra kick of health! I used the Al Fresco “Country Style” chicken sausage, but any type of sausage could be used.

Can you believe my kale looked like this on Christmas Eve?!? (–>)

 

 

Sweet Potato Hash

2 small sweet potatoes, diced fine (1/4 inch is best)

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1/4 cup frozen kale, thawed, slightly drained

chicken sausage, finely diced

evoo, s&p, cayenne, garlic powder

2 eggs

  1. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 tbsp of olive oil. When hot, add the sweet potatoes and saute for 5-10 minutes or until browned and starting to soften.
  2. Add the onions and sausage. Season with a little garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper. Saute until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the kale. If needed, add about 1/8 cup of water to finish off the potatoes if they are still hard in the middle.
  4. Crack the eggs over the top and let the white cook (you can cook in a separate pan as well).

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Grilled chicken quinoa with roasted corn, peppers, and pine nuts

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I’m back! Well… hopefully for more than one post a year! Woo wee has it been a year!! Long story short, I completed my first year teaching chemistry, I started a Master’s program, our garden is now over 3000 square feet, and I am now engaged to the maple syrup man ūüôā

Putting the busy aside… Not much is being produced in the garden as of yet. We are drowning in sugar snap peas, lettuce, and herbs, but are close to harvesting onions, beans, and tomatoes! I love watching the cabbage fold over and the squash plants blossom – it is just too beautiful! After spending 5+ hours weeding today (we were away for a week and the weeds decided to hold my veggies hostage), a light, yet filling dinner was needed. Enter the filling AND light quinoa! I roasted corn that I froze last year in a 400¬įF oven with a little evoo and s&p for 15 minutes. I used pre-roasted peppers, grilled chicken thighs, fresh basil, and straight-from-Russia pine nuts. Trust me when I say that a small bowl of this is filling.

Chicken Quinoa and Pine Nuts

3-4 grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)

1 cup quinoa cooked according to package

1 1/2 cups roasted corn (or 2 roasted ears)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 small onion, finely diced

1 pepper, roasted and chopped

bunch of fresh basil, chopped (approx 10 leaves)

crumbled goat cheese

evoo and S&P

The recipe is as easy at is sounds. Cook the quinoa, chicken, and corn (and peppers if using fresh).

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Saute onions over medium heat in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Once translucent, add pine nuts until slightly browned.

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Toss all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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Our winter squashes and pumpkins did incredibly well this year. I ended up with 4 nice sized sugar pumpkins (a few cinderella pumpkins), and plenty of squashes.

While rumor has it that canned pumpkin does not have too much of a taste difference than fresh pumpkin, the benefit of not eating out of cans far outweighs the little bit of effort needed to process a pumpkin. In fact, it is so simple, I think that last can of pumpkin in my cupboard may become a donation. Personally, I think the taste is better- it tastes fresh, not canned! Duh.

Three pumpkins yielded over 16 cups of puree. I packaged 7 ‘can sized’ servings for freezing and some extra to make a batch of¬†pumpkin¬†dark chocolate chip cookies.¬†I can’t wait to make pumpkin soup, muffins, bread, etc…. any pumpkin suggestions?

Pumpkin Puree

Preheat your oven to 350¬įF.¬†Rinse the outside of two to three sugar pumpkins and pat dry. Remove stem, cut in half and scoop out the guts (yes, that is what I call them). Be sure to save the seeds to roast later (I just tried Worcestershire sauce on the seeds – great idea!).

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When the pumpkins are cleaned out, cut each half into thirds and lay them flesh side up on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes until the flesh is soft. Let cool.

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Remove the flesh from the skin and process in a food processor/blender until desired smoothness is achieved. Freeze in baggies or use right away! 1 can of pumpkin is a wee less than 2 cups.

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Lavender Blueberries in Simple Syrup

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Today was one of those days that just makes you love fresh air (and Vermont, if you are lucky enough to live here). After the heat wave and days of thunderstorms, it cleared off last night and led to a cool (57 degree!), beautiful, Sunday morning. A berry farm we visited last year, Pure Livin’ Farms, opened at 9 am and we were the second ones there to pick. It is a bumper blueberry crop this year. It took an extremely short amount of time to knock some 14 pounds off the bushes.

berries

I’ve recently read a lot, and have been interested in, canning whole berries. I found multiple recipes out there, but tweaked them a little. My main recipe came from ZoeBakes. I then added some lemon juice, homemade vanilla extract (instead of a bean) and lemon zest. What smelled incredible, I can only hope will turn out to be a great mid-winter treat! I dream, and drool, of a homemade lemon pound cake smothered in these berries…. aaaand fresh whipped cream!

And for those of you who are not canners, I promise you this is the easiest. I think I should have started with this! Remember that I didn’t grow up canning. What I know, I taught myself. Also, the recipe below is for a small batch. Three pint jars are all you need… just in case you don’t have 13 pounds of blueberries on your hands!

Canned Blueberries in Simple Syrup with Lavender and Lemon

Fresh, ripe blueberries – enough to fit in 3 pint jars

3 cups water

2 1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp lemon zest

3-6 springs fresh lavender flowers

1. Clean your pint jars and bring to a boil in a water bath canner. Let boil for about 10 minutes to sterilize.

2. Fill the hot jars with berries until just below the neck. Lay a lavender flower or two on the top of each jar and sprinkle a few pieces of lemon zest.

IMG_18973. Pour syrup over berries in each jar leaving 1-inch headspace. Top with sterilized lids, finger-tip tighten bands, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

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Green Bean Salad with Bruschetta

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My Mom found this recipe (or one like it) quite a while ago. I feel I was still in high school when she first made it, which to me, is quite a while ago. It has become a staple when fresh green and wax beans are picked daily from the garden. There is something about a fresh homegrown green bean. There is something about anything homegrown.

Speaking of homegrown РI stopped by a little farm store near us and picked out a beautiful ripe tomato (ours are soooo close to ripe!) and some 100% pure Vermont feta cheese! Chain-store feta < local whole-milk feta!

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I like to give credit when credit is due, but since I have no idea where this simple concoction came from, I will give credit to my Mom! I never really pay attention to amounts, so I am guessing below. Just go with what seems right for your palette!

Green Bean Bruschetta

Fresh green beans (about 1/4-1/2 lb)

2 tomatoes

5-8 large basil leaves

crumbled feta cheese (about a 1/4 cup)

olive oil (or any other type of tasty oil)

balsamic vinegar

s & p

1. Clean and trim green beans. In a small pan, add green beans and an inch of water and cover. Place over high heat until boiling. Let boil for about two minutes. Remove, drain, and rinse beans under cold water. (In other words, blanch your beans!).

2. Chop tomato into small cubes. Roll the basil leaves length wise and thinly chop (this will make long strips).

3. Plate the green beans. Top with tomatoes. Crumble the feta cheese over the tomatoes, sprinkle with the basil strips and season with salt and pepper. Prior to serving, drizzle with oil and vinegar.

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Gardens never cease to amaze…

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If any of you are from the North East, you probably considered building an ark in the recent weeks, too. Daily dog walks involved mud boots and rain coats. I even contemplated buying rain pants! My poor garden got flooded during a huge storm at the end of May… like, water rushing through the garden from the nearby normally peaceful river – serious flooding. At the point of flooding, we had only planted herbs, onions, garlic, and loads of seeds. Luckily we plant in mounded rows, so they withheld a lot of the force of the water, but the soil and established plants took a beating during the flooding and the following weeks of rain (2nd wettest June on record).

IMG_1860Alas, sunny and hot (and humid) weather has arrived. Things are starting to dry out. Last weekend we weeded for hours and I left feeling blue, which is never how I feel after a day in the garden. I had posted toward the end of June that things were looking good, but all of those plants looked tired from trying too hard.  A few weeks later, they looked barely any bigger and were surrounded by weeds. I thought about giving up the whole gardening-thing.

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But this weekend, just a few days later, I was met with a pleasant surprise. Almost everything perked up, grew inches, started fruiting, and looked happy. It was an immediate endorphin rush. I pulled any new weeds with a smile on face. I was kneeling in the dirt on a sunny, hot day with sweat rolling down my back and bugs buzzing around my head when I thought to myself, a garden is truly an amazing thing. It was a good day.

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Our pepper plants are loaded! For the first time ever!

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A lesson from the garden: No matter how cloudy it is, the sun will shine again.

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The first of the slicing cucumbers are growing strong. The pickling cukes are still struggling, but I have faith.

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Black bean flowers are just beautiful.

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This is the earliest we have ever had tomatoes of this size! We are struggling with some early blight though… any tips for beating it? I am pruning like crazy.

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Our three tomatillo plants have bounced back and are already setting fruit… even though little buggers are still nibbling away!

IMG_1844And after all of that gardening… a much deserved dip at a local swimming hole was enjoyed. We even got Boomer to jump from near the top (over 6 feet)!! I didn’t have my camera ready for that jump though.

Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

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We have lettuce ready! This is the first year we have ever had lettuce (and radishes, and carrots, and beets). I guess our soil is finally happy ūüôā Composted manure must do the trick!

Mango’s were on sale a little local market, so I bought a few, but tossed them in the fridge and forgot about them. When I grabbed one today, it was perfectly ripe. After a little searching, I noticed that mango and avocado make quite the pair. Along with a slightly sweet cider vinaigrette, a trio of fresh picked lettuce, mango, and avocado, makes this salad a perfect pre-dinner treat on a triple-H day. For those of you non-New Englander’s, triple-H means Hazy, Hot, and Humid!

Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

A bunch of butter lettuce – cleaned and torn into bite size pieces

1 ripe mango, diced

1 ripe avocado, diced

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup (honey would work too!)

freshly ground pepper (just a dash or two)

1. Split the salad ingredients between 3-4 salad bowls. Sprinkle with some feta.

2. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well, taste. Adjust for sweetness by adding more vinegar or syrup. Drizzle on salad. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Preserves (pectin free)

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The strawberries are finally ready in Vermont! We took full advantage of this and visited a local organic berry farm. Over 11 lbs of strawberries later, some serious jamming had to be done. I made two batches of preserves, the first is outlined below and the second was a variation in which I added some frozen blueberries that we picked last summer.

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We are not big fans of sugary fruit in this household, so I kept the added sugar to a minimum and used some maple syrup for additional flavor. I’d much rather taste my strawberries slightly sweetened than taste strawberry flavored sugar.

Strawberry Preserves

14 cups fresh strawberries (cleaned, whole)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup pure VT maple syrup

1/4 cup lemon juice, plus juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp vanilla extract (optional)

1. In a large stock pot over medium heat, add all of the above ingredients. As the mixture warms, mash with a potato masher. The berries get easier to mash as the mixture warms (but the warming increases the chance of splattering). Bring the berries up to a boil and reduce to a summer for about 30-45 minutes or until thick. Remove foam with a spoon, if needed. To test the readiness of the jam, use the spoon test, plate test, or temperature test. Check out this great how-to guide to determine when your preserves are jellied.

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2. In a separate pot, bring 4-5 pint-sized mason jars to a boil. Sterilize for 10 minutes. The number of jars needed will depend on natural pectin and simmering time of the berries.

3. Pour jam into sterilized jars leaving about a 1/2 inch head space. Clean rim and top with a sterilized and unused lid (keep in boiling/hot water until use). Tighten the lid ring lightly and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

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4. Remove, let cool, listen for the POP (my favorite part), and enjoy whenever you need a fresh berry taste! Store in a cool, dry, and dark place.

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Thar She Grows!

IMG_1652The very first edibles of the season.

After a month (not even kidding) of rain and rain and rain and rain and wait… some more rain, we finally had a clear day in which I could get to weeding. The grass around the garden is about as tall as my head and the wheeler splashed up muddy goop the entire ride down the hill. I was pleased to see the garden thriving despite all of the rain and cool weather… well, most of the garden anyway.

IMG_1656Chard (two plantings… no those are not weeds!) and Kale… both almost ready.

My red onions bolted already. Apparently, when onions are under stress in their second season (they are biennials) they bolt. When that happens, they will not keep and will discontinue bulb growth. My project for the week is to yank them and figure out a way to store them. Any ideas? Canning, pickling, freezing?? I’ve got some reasearch to do! Besides the onions, my peppers have barely grown and my garlic looks, well, eh.

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Onions, peppers, and garlic aside, everything else is thriving! The snap peas have wrapped their little fingers around the fence and the dry beans are all up and healthy. The broccoli and cabbage have quadrupled in size and are luckily not being attacked by flea beetles! In fact, the flea beetles are few and far between… I even got to pull a few radishes already! Usually our radishes are decimated by the little buggers.

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I guess rain is a good thing! (And getting a r.e.a.l teaching job! wa hoo)

The plants are in… well, half of them anyway

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I was greeted by the song of this little fella on the garden fence…

Well, I did get by butt in the garden, but after a little over 6 hours, I only planted about half of what I had hoped to! I planned to hold off on planting peppers and tomatoes because we live in northern New England, where you n.e.v.e.r know when winter will actually end, but I had planned on getting everything else in the ground. Wishful thinking. I definitely needed Ty to help plant. I think the size of our garden this year requires two people to complete any task in a reasonable amount of time.

I planted snap peas, carrots, radishes, beets, wax and green beans from seed and I got a whole bunch of other ‘starts’ into the dirt.

IMG_1576Chives are up and ready to be eaten.

IMG_1591Sage (is it time to dress that turkey yet??)

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Have you ever seen Cilantro like this? I may have picked and nibbled a few leaves…

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Onion… standing tall!

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Marigolds are ready to protect!

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Rainbow Chard

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Rain on the way. Forecast is calling for a perfect week of warmth, sun, and drizzle. I’ve got to get the rest planted!!

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I pass this wild apple on every trip to the garden. Thank you Johnny for giving Vermont such an abundance of a beautiful tree!