ETW: Zest, Downtown SLC

I did not intend to review this restaurant. It had good reviews on Yelp. How I wish I’d brought a better camera.

Can I just put this out there? Just because I’m an herbivore DOES NOT mean I need small portions. Contrarily, I need MORE food.

Zest Kitchen & Bar

Zest Kitchen and Bar Eat. Drink. And be healthy. (Emphasis on the drink part.)
275 South 200 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Set the scene: I got a babysitter, a miracle in and of itself. I’m paying her by the hour. Located in PF Changs back closet, it’s hard to spot. The only sign is less than a foot in diameter on the glass door. I guess you have to be “in the know” … hard to find joints are hip, right? Fortunately, we’d been to the location when it was a hipster burger joint after I was sworn-in 5 years ago.

Upon Arrival: The space is small and dark. Half is a standing bar with high tables and half is a dining room. We waited about five minutes as all four of the on-floor employees whiled away their time talking to each other. Finally someone greeted us, carded us (that’s weird but cool, I guess) asked us how we found the place, and then ignored our answer. We were abruptly seated with a smile straight off a sitcom. Five minutes later, our hipster waiter with a cartoon character on his shirt, beefy arms and almost no idea what the menu included, asked for our drink order (water) and he left. Five minutes later (or more) he returned with our water – apparently our non-drink buying was a deterrent. His other two tables were getting loaded (read – much better tips).

Upon Ordering: As usual, I asked  for recommendations, and while he couldn’t really tell me, his aloof demeanor was, again, right out of a sitcom. The table to our left (a tipsy older couple on a blind date) just had to tell him during our ordering (because they hadn’t seen him for 20 minutes) that the stir-fry was, “I kid you not, the best I’ve ever had!” So we ordered it. ($7)  He came back 10 minutes later dropped off the stir-fry in cereal sized bowl. After we finished it, he came back to get the rest of our order. Stuffed mushrooms with cashew cheeze ($8), the salad special (7?), and the stuffed avocado w/spicy seasoned walnuts, lettuce salad, salsa & cashew sour cream ($13).

The food took a while to come out. One. Plate. At. A Time. Let’s just say, the service was hilariously bad. It’s like they were trying to be bad because that’s hip.

mygoodcleanfood.comAnd now, the food.

I am not terribly picky, I’m really not, but consider the prices as I give you a rundown.

Stir-fry. $7, probably 1 cup of vegetables. No rice. Tasted like Rumbi teriyaki but with garbanzo beans in it. We kept looking for something to dip in the sauce. DEFINITELY not the best I’d had. In fact it wasn’t as good as the mountain of stir-fry I’d made the night before for the ruffians with the stuff in my fridge.

mygoodcleanfood.comStuffed Mushrooms. $8. Quantity 5. Seriously – five is the worst number for almost any table except one of, well, five. Said served warm, more tepid, and the flavor was uninspiring. And maybe it’s because I make cashew cheeze that I wasn’t blown away by the vegan-ness.

Salad. $7? It was small. The tomato vinaigrette was good. But it was half red onions and to say they were thinly sliced is like that guy at the gym telling you it’s all muscle. Big bites of spicy onion, standard mesclun mix, and three slices of a baby cucumber … three? Really?

And then, my favorite, the stuffed avocado. $13 Admire the above pictures. There may have been the equivalent of a whole small avocado on the plate. A large tablespoon of walnut stuffing with flavor that didn’t seem to land anywhere. Now, look closely at that awesome avocado. The bottom was cut off and still the big, fat bruise on it was visible. It was cold, always weird for avocado.

And still, after all four dishes, I was starving but unwilling to wait another hour or pay more money for mediocre food. We came home and had dinner.

There is a positive spin … it’s a gluten-free restaurant with raw dishes, and that’s cool, right?

Can I tell you the last part which is actually pretty funny? During the time our waiter took a year an a half drop-off, take and return our check and then return my phone which he’d left by the bar (I still feel uncomfortable with that), the slightly tipsy couple on the blind date  was ALSO waiting for Hipster Waiter guy, so they joined us. Literally, they pulled their chairs up to our table and divided my husband and I – just what I need on my once-every-few-months-date. The lovely woman thought the giant photograph of a cippolini onion looked like, well, it made me uncomfortable. I won’t even hint at her thoughts on the bell pepper.


Something Oh-So-Delicious (Whole Wheat Coconut Milk Crepes)

So I made something yummy tonight.  So yummy that I couldn’t help but smile in satisfaction and everyone in the house ate two plates full.  Coolest part, I actually made up the recipe.  I don’t make up recipes.  I destroy made up recipes more often than not.

But here’s the problem: they are NOT vegan.  So delicious I want to share but my dear blogging friends have gone crazy vegan on me!  🙂

Here’s the challenge friends….

Can you make these vegan and still tasty?  Feel free to amend and report!

Whole Wheat Coconut Milk Crepes

2 cups WW flour
1 cup white flour (or 3 WW pastry flour?  I was all out)
3 cups coconut milk
*8 eggs* (non-vegan ingredient)
pinch sea salt

Mix together one ingredient at a time, in order.  Lightly grease skillet with coconut oil.  Flip away.

The ww flour makes them a little thicker than the average crepe but they are still thinner than a heavy wheat pancake.  The eggs make them a bit fluffy.

We ate these in 2 rounds, it’s becoming a tradition.  Round one: savory.  Round two: sweet.

Round one

Cherry tomatoes, halved
Feta cheese
Crumbled Bacon

Round Two

Berry Sauce– Made by filling a small sauce pan with mixed berries, vanilla agave nectar to taste and a bit of cinnamon.  Cook down on medium.  Divine
Slivered Almonds
Kiwi, cut in chunks (we love bananas on round two but my 2-year-old attacked them earlier in the day)

We didn’t have any in house, but cream cheese (vegan or non) would be a tasty addition.  Or whipped cream.  Mmm.

So there it is.  Take it or leave it.  Or even better, eat it.

Quick Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Jen here.  I know – it’s been a while.  I’ve been pretty busy lately.  We’ve been cooking things like brown rice, and bacon ricotta pasta, and focaccia made from my 5-minute bread dough (I’ll post details later) but nothing new and exciting.  But, the cooking holiday of the year is coming up, and I wanted to share a recipe we’re going to try this year (so, no action shots yet, except for one I just took today of the prep work).

The craziness in my world stems from the fact that my brother-in-law, Mike, passed away completely unexpectedly at the end of October.  He loved to cook, and while I was talking with my niece after his funeral, she remembered how he had served pumpkin soup one year that she had come up for Thanksgiving.  In the aftermath of all the organizing, mourning and cleaning, I ran across a recipe of Mike’s, which was his “Quick Creamy Pumpkin Soup.”  So, in his honor, I will be making this for my family this year year, since we will be hosting Thanksgiving at our house.  I don’t know for certain if this is what he served that year, but it will be his Thanksgiving recipe from now on.  I love how fast it goes together.  There’s also a bit of versatility, too.  I’ll be doubling this for Thanksgiving.

First, you’ll need canned pumpkin, or pumpkin puree.  I’m making mine using these directions from Nourishing Heart & Home (a lovely website).  I tried it the first time a couple of weeks ago, after somebody threw a pumpkin at our front door.  You know, when life gives you lemons (or a cracked sugar pie pumpkin), make lemonade (or pumpkin puree).  These are actually the three small pumpkins we bought right before Halloween, that we never carved (there just wasn’t time).  I’m roasting them as we speak.  The first pumpkin gave me 3-1/2 cups of puree that in my freezer.  (One tip:  I pureed my pumpkin in my blender, and had to add a bit of water.  This time I’m going to use the water that’s in the roasting pan.)

Roasting pumpkins

Quick Creamy Pumpkin Soup from Mike Nebeker

1 can pumpkin (about 2 cups homemade)
1 can (14-ounces) chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup cream, or milk (nonfat milk OK – if you really have to (I can hear Mike’s voice))
White pepper to taste (1/2 to 1 tsp.)
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 small chopped onion, sauté, and add other seasonings.

Put chicken broth in a 2-quart saucepan.  Stir in pumpkin.  Heat until pumpkin is hot.  Add cream and pepper.  Puree in a blender (use your immersion blender here) until smooth.  Serve in bowls with a light sprinkling of nutmeg.

On the Side: Cauliflower

I’m not very good at incorporating the traditional vegetables of my youth – broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, frozen mixed vegetables – into our dinner routine. You know the meal.s of yesteryear. You had your meat, your starch and your vegetable or your casserole and vegetable tucked nicely onto separate wedges of the plate, and for some of you, they were BY NO MEANS allowed to touch each other or there were contamination problems. I know your type.

But most of our cooking these days includes a big main dish and that’s often more than the two and a half of us (rather than 8 or 9 of my youth) can eat and still have too many leftovers. Our current dishes often incorporate the vegetables so I don’t worry too much about sneaking the roughage in on the side. But I’m trying to do it more now, especially with a son that needs 5 different things on his plate that he can eat two bites of (annoying, really). One main dish doesn’t work so well for that.

Tonight I made this. It was amazing , and yes, that amazing was broken into three distinct syllables, and almost too easy. We will be having this again. Soon. And I would recommend you do the same. I never thought I’d say this, but thank you Emeril.

Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Serves: 5 to 6 cups roasted cauliflower florets, 6 to 8 servings

5 to 6 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (from 1 medium cauliflower)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Chopped chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately while still warm.

Shells with Broccoli and Chickpeas

Jen here.  By request, I’m bringing you the recipe for Shells with Broccoli and Chickpeas.  I reviewed it here.  I don’t have any photos, so you’ll just have to imagine bright green slightly cooked broccoli, diced tomatoes and yummy chickpeas (also known as garbonzo beans – these are the same beans used to make hummus and falafel).  This is from 1,000 Lowfat Recipes by Terry Blonder Golson.  I’m typing the recipe as written in the book.  [From my notes at the top of the page: 01-06-09 Good – don’t forget the *pasta water for the sauce.  Pasta water is often used as a sauce thickener.  It’s full of good starch from the boiled pasta.  All recipes are flexible, not strict science experiments.  I note any changes I made in brackets, like this.]

Shells with Broccoli and Chickpeas

Red onion is used here for its milder flavor and attracive color.  Sometimes paying attention to these seeminly small details makes a world of difference to a recipe.  page 290

3 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed or blanched
1/2 pound small pasta shells [you can use any small shaped pasta]
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onions [I used green onions because they were on hand]
3 cloves garlic, minced [use a garlic press to simplify things]
One 14-1/2-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped [I used a can of diced tomatoes, drained]
1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained [I used a whole 15-ounce can]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt [all recipes in this book use kosher salt, use about 1/4 teaspoon regular salt and check the taste; I found this great blog post talking about kosher salt]
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
Crumbled feta cheese or grated Romano cheese for garnish (optional) [I used a Parmesan/Romano blend]

1) Put a pot of water up to boil.  This can be used to first blanch the broccoli and then to cook the shells.  (I use a metal basket to hold the florets so they are easy to remove after their brief cooking.)

2) As the pot of water is coming to boil, heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and saute [does anybody know  how to put the accent on the “e” in saute] the onions and garlic over moderate heat until the onions soften and turn golden.  Keep covered between stirrings.  Stir in the broccoli and remaining ingredients except the cheese.  Simmer gently.

3) Just before the past is finished cooking *scoop out 1/4 cup of the boiling water (use a heatproof glass measuring cup) and add it to the vegetables.  When the pasta is ready, drain and put it in a large pasta serving bowl.  Add the sauce and toss.  Top with the feta cheese or Romano, if desired.

Carrots and Rabbits, by request (Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins)

About a month ago, we bought a Costco bag of whole carrots – you know, the giant one? Funny thing happened a few days later, when we picked up our Co-op order, we ended up with another 6 pounds of carrots. I mentioned to a friend of mine that my fridge was half full of carrots, and I was told to get a rabbit. But I think only cats and dogs are allowed as pets, so not only can I not have a cow or chickens, but no rabbits either. One day, one day …. (a moment please, if you don’t mind, I’m day-dreaming.)
So we’ve been working on them. A lot. In fact, I’ve kept carrot sticks pre-cut in my fridge, and have been fanatically eating them, although my skin isn’t orange, so therefore I have failed as a zealot. They have been the basis of more than at least one soup, lots of crock-pot dishes, dipped in ranch dressing (that has now been used up and only BYU Ranch will do), and now, as an ingredient in our treat. As mentioned in a previous post, I’m trying to use up foods, so this is by no means a stroke of genius or brilliance, but an insane effort to use up foods – which includes my half ton of carrots.
I pulled out my old friend Joy (which belongs on everyone’s shelf, even people who don’t cook), and looked up carrot. Carrot muffins, eh? I supposed I could try those, but I’m not one for a standard muffin with nuts and raisins. Ick.
Open fridge. What do I find? Ooooh, cream cheese leftover from the holidays. Cream cheese frosting…mouth watering…but that wouldn’t be very good (or nutritious) on a MUFFIN. Then I would have to call it a cupcake, and I would feel guilty eating it for breakfast and several other times throughout the day. Soooo, think think think. (We watch a lot of Winnie the Pooh in our house.)
A few years ago, I began experimenting with cream cheese in muffins (peach, blueberry – all delightful), because if you love cream cheese, you really love cream cheese. And I really love cream cheese. The technique was tricky and usually failed before due to poor incorporation, but today I remembered a handy vegetable and fruit freezing technique – tray freezing. And finally can now have my cake, er, muffin, and eat it too. (And apparently, I was possessed by some demon during this part of the preparation, because I managed to not take any pictures. Sorry.)
I will admit, these aren’t as sweet as carrot cake, and I don’t sweeten the cream cheese so they are only reminiscent of carrot cake, but they are definitely better than any other stinking carrot muffin I have ever had, and you can always increase the sugar, or add honey if you’d like. And remember, at high elevations (Utah) reduce your leavening agents by about 1/3.
Carrot Cream Cheese Muffins (12 muffins)
5 oz (or so) cream cheese
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour (I use half ww pastry flour and half white whole wheat flour)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground nutmeg – and do it fresh if you can, it’s so much better
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. allspice
2 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c. packed finely shredded carrots
1/4 c. orange juice
5 T. melted unsalted butter

1. Cut your cream cheese into 1/2 x 1/2 cubes. This can be tricky because it will stick to your knife, but pull them off and put them on a tray or plate that can fit in your freezer. When you have all of your cream cheese chunks on the tray, put them in the freezer while you do the rest.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 12-muffin tin for muffins (sprayed or papers). In a medium sized bowl, mix together your flours, baking powders, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the two eggs and sugar. Add the carrots, and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the orange juice and butter.

4. Add the flour mixture and chilled cream cheese cubes and fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix; the batter should NOT be smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake 15 to 18 minutes.

5. These should be eaten as soon as they are cool enough to do so, or at least try to get to them that day. But they’re probably still good if you refrigerate them, and warm them up before eating. Unlike my previous recipes, these probably don’t need milk, but it couldn’t hurt.

Recipe Review – Pumpkin Blender Waffles & Caramel Syrup recipe

My sister recommended these when I was visiting a few weeks ago. She got the recipe for these seasonal waffles from a blog she follows: Every Day Food Storage, which just got a new REAL website. None of this silly blog-ness anymore.

The niche for this website is on how to use basic food storage items as real food. She even has a “Magic Mix” which she uses for everything from baked goods to homemade cream soup. The recipes have the great benefit of providing not a usable recipe just for today, but on the dried food equivalents, as you’ll see in the recipe below.

I was skeptical that adding milk to whole wheat kernels and whizzing the whole thing up in a blender would actually blend everything to a useful consistency, but it was one of the easiest and quietest things my blender has ever done, even easier than most smoothies. We have lots of squash in our house, so there is generally some cooked orange puree in the fridge. If I do this again, I might add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of squash and see if it would taste a little more pumkiny. Any winter squash puree will do, although they all impart a very slightly different flavor.

We all loved these waffles. They browned up nicely and had a smooth consistency, not like most whole grain waffles. We didn’t make the caramel sauce, but I used a little vanilla kefir (similar to yogurt) and some maple syrup and I had an almost perfect waffle. The addition of a few candied pecans would have pushed it to perfection, but most mornings to even get close is a winner.


Pumpkin Blender Waffles

1 Cup Milk (3 T. Powdered Milk and 1 C. Water)
1 Cup + 2 Tbs Wheat Kernels, whole & uncooked
2 Eggs (2 T. Powdered Eggs and 1/4 C. Water)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 Cup Oil
1/2 Cup Pureed, Cooked Pumpkin
1-1/2 t. Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 Tbs. Sugar

Put milk and wheat kernels in blender. Blend on highest speed for 4 or 5 minutes or until batter is smooth. Add eggs, oil, baking powder, salt, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and honey or sugar to above batter. Blend on low. Pour batter into hot prepared waffle iron from the actual blender jar (only one thing to wash!)
For a yummy variation, put chopped pecans on the top of the batter in the waffle iron before closing.

Caramel Syrup
3/4 C. Butter
1-1/2 C. Sugar
2 T. Light Corn Syrup
3/4 C. Buttermilk
1 t. Baking Soda
2 t. Vanilla
Combine ingredients in sauce pan (it gets frothy so make sure and use a large enough pan so it doesn’t spill over). Stirring constantly, heat sauce until boiling and then boil for 5 minutes.

Rainy day baking – Grandma’s Blueberry Muffins & Pioneer Bread

Sometimes, rainy days just call for a baking day, and this one especially since my legs still ache from Saturday’s half marathon and I didn’t really want to go anywhere. Since I knew it would be dreary all day, I prepped last night and got the dry ingredients ready for muffins while making a batch of yogurt. I know my little one is often slow in the morning to be hungry, so I got lucky as I made Matt’s Grandmother’s blueberry muffin recipe without hunger demands from him and deliberated what else could fill the dreary day with delicious smells.


Blueberry Muffins from Grandma Aggie (with my alterations)
Yield 12 muffins
2 c. flour (I used 1 c white whole wheat (King Arthur) and 1 c whole wheat pastry)
½ t. salt
1 T. baking powder (2 t. to 2 ½ t. is good at high elevations)
½ c. sugar
1 t. orange or lemon extract (or 1 t. orange zest)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. milk
½ c. melted butter
1 c. blueberries (frozen worked out beautifully)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prep muffin tin.
In medium bowl, blend dry ingredients.
Combine egg, milk, and melted butter in 2 c. measuring cup, and add liquid all at once to dry ingredients. Mix quickly with a wooden spoon until all liquid is absorbed but batter is still lumpy.
Fold in berries, and spoon into muffin tin.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan immediately to cool.

So when the little one went down for a nap, I pulled out a new bread recipe that had only one rise and was full of yummy stuff. And since I had to wait for the rise, I figured with the molasses out, I may as well make some gingersnaps my sister Jennifer recommended on her blog from another blog. I thought they were pretty good, and Matt even ate one while sick, but they might be a little heavy on the molasses. I only had blackstrap (which was likely the problem), so maybe I’ll try something a little more mild next time. I only used just a pinch of cayenne, but it added a nice kick to it. I think that much more would have been too overbearing. See the link above for the recipe.


The bread turned out beautifully (for a novice bread baker) and the whole house smells delicious. It’s a nice whole wheat recipe, but I’m not sure how it will do for sandwiches yet. I added about an extra cup of flour to the original recipe, because it seemed really sticky. Even with the extra flour it was still quite sticky, but it worked out okay I think. I let it rise for about an hour and fifteen minutes, waiting for the cookies to finish baking and it was a nice consistency. I might let it got another 15 minutes next time, and bake it an extra five, but it was a really nice, soft, brown bread and wasn’t dense like most wheat breads. It was delicious warm with butter and strawberry jam, because isn’t that the best way to eat warm bread?


Pioneer Bread
Yield 2 loaves

2 ¼ t. yeast
2 T sugar
½ c warm water

1 c. hot milk, but not boiling
2 t. salt
½ c. dark molasses
½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter melted

1 c cold milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 ½ c whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep two loaf pans by oiling/greasing and flouring if desired.
In a small bowl, mix together yeast, sugar and warm water. Let sit until foamy (until it’s time to add it).
In a separate, large bowl (my stand mixer bowl), combine hot milk, salt, molasses and butter until dissolved. Add cold milk, beaten egg, and yeast mixture. Stir until combined. Add flour and stir until blended. (This is where I was a bit confused, but I used the dough hook and kneaded it until it slightly pulled away from the bowl sides. It was really sticky dough, but I figured I’d try it on faith at least once.)
Divide dough into two equal portions, shape into loaves, and place in loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour 15 minutes). Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until hollow sounding. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Bread will not be as chewy as a double risen loaf, but it is moist and soft, especially for whole wheat bread. Best when served warm with butter and jam.

A million ways – Zucchini Bread

There are a million ways to make zucchini bread. I am convinced of it, positive even without doing the research. Here is one I like. It is less sweet than others that call for 50-100% more sweet than this one. I made some modifications from the original which makes the ingredients list crazy long, but they’re usually something you have on hand. The honey and sugar are interchangeable, as are the applesauce and oil, but I usually don’t go straight applesauce because it’s too sticky and not enough crisp.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. honey
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 c. grated raw zucchini or other summer squash
1 T. vanilla
3 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice (or combination of ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves …)
Optional (I didn’t try): 1 c. nuts, raisins, chocolate or butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 325F.
Beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar, honey, applesauce, oil, zucchini, vanilla and blend.
Combine all dry ingredients separately, then add to wet ingredients, mixing only until just moistened – maybe even a bit lumpy.
Bake in two heavily (if using applesauce instead of 1 full c. of oil) greased loaf pans. Bake 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean and the top of the loaf springs back gently. While waiting for it to bake, go swimming, it helps keep you from checking it a million times.
This is really yummy with cream cheese, but Matt also seems to like it with butter – not that I’m surprised.

Garden started & Bean Burrito Casserole

One of my favorite things about food is making it. Not just making it from scratch with all the right ingredients, but making it from soil and seeds and water. Last year we had no garden, but instead had a little nino – a darling baby boy. But this year, as he is almost walking and loves to eat dirt, we begin our quest. In our new home we have only a little space in our yard for a garden, but we are determined to maximize it. We turned the soil, removed rocks, and even found a new home for the compost pile, and will end up with three small but hopefully productive beds in the back, and one in the front (disguising food for decorative plants – herbs, peppers, etc.) On Saturday we planted three kinds of lettuce, spinach, beets, and onions. On Monday, we got in the first round of peas. Now we just need to get to the store, get a few more seeds and wait for our seedlings. We started some flowers and vegetables in empty baby food containers with holes in the bottom. We’ll see how successful they are, but with lids I couldn’t pass up the ready made greenhouses.
Last year we canned three kinds of chutney, jams and butters, peaches and pears, and froze a bunch of peppers. But we had no tomatoes and wished we had. So this year, not only will we maximize the small yard and our farmer’s market, but we have signed on to a small community garden at the church where we pick up our community food co-op orders every month. Last year we saw it and wished it was a community garden we could participate in. We found out this year that it is an organic community garden that donates 20% of the food that is grown to charity, and they are letting us have a plot. We are thrilled – overwhelmed, but thrilled. Tomatoes and peppers, squash and corn, basil, basil and more basil – here we come. We might even venture out to potatoes and more onions. I’ll try to get more pictures, but I was a bit distracted this week and sore from removing rocks.
Tonight’s dinner is using peppers and corn from last summer (love my freezer!). Here is the recipe and of course it allows for variation. Use any veggies you have – carrots, zucchini, corn, peppers, etc. I make a double or triple batch and freeze the filling for later and easy use. I made this batch earlier in the day and threw it in the crock pot so the flavors could marry and so it would stay warm until I was ready to cook.

Bean burrito casserole (I know casserole sounds lame, but it’s pretty good)
Olive Oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. filling (cooked chicken, or ALL VEGETABLES! peppers, squash, corn, etc)
4 c. cooked black, pinto or pink beans (2 cans)
1 c. tomato sauce
2 t. ground cumin
1-2 fresh jalapenos diced, or a can of diced fresh chiles
1/4 c. fresh coriander (optional)

flour tortillas, salsa verde, cheese (jack or cheddar – whatever you have)
sour cream, guacamole, and salsa for accompaniment

In a large pan – dutch oven or skillet, cook the onion, garlic and other veggies in the oil over moderately low heat until softened and starting to caramelize. Add the cumin, cook for a few seconds, then add the beans and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the filling. Add the tomato sauce, jalapenos or chiles, the chicken and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer until thickened and warmed.

Working with one warmed tortilla at a time, spread about 3 T. of the filling into each flour tortilla (more or less depending on your tortilla size and your liking), rolling the tortilla keeping the ends open. Place the burritos – seam side down – in one layer in a baking dish, cover with a thin layer of the salsa verde, then the cheese, and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.