Posts from October 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta



Our pepper plants in the garden are hanging on for dear life. They’ve lived their season, but it is nearing the end. I was able to get one last red one, and decided to roast it to add to my pasta.

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{The small shriveled pepper is from my garden, the large beautiful one is unfortunately from the store.}

To make roasted peppers, you can either do this on the grill, like I did, or in the oven. Turn either on medium high heat, and put the peppers close to the flame. You want the skin to burn. After the entire exterior has been singed (about 7-10 minutes per side), put the peppers in a contain and put cellophane over it so it steams for 10 minutes. (The picture I included above is not cooked long enough–the skin of the pepper should be completely black.) The pepper should then be cool enough where you can peal the burned part off, and the delicious cooked part remains.

To make pesto pasta, boil some penne noodles. Chop up the roasted red pepper, and any of your other favorite Mediterranean additions: a handful of Kalamata olives, a jar of artichoke hearts, a raw green pepper, a cup full of sautéed chicken, and about 4 T of pesto. When the noodles are cooked, add all your chopped goodness, pesto, and stir. Grate some Parmesan cheese over it to serve.




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I wish these apples were from my backyard tree, but they’re not. They’re from Iowa, picked from my parents’ tree in their yard. Apples, as I’ve explained before, have the smell and taste of nostalgia to me. I loved coming home after school to have the smell of my mom’s applesauce greet me at the door. So when I’m homesick in the fall, I make a batch myself to make me feel closer to home.

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10 fresh apples, cored and sliced
1/2 c water
1 T cinnamon (or more)
1 T honey (optional)


Heat the chopped apples, water, and cinnamon over medium heat for about half an hour, or until the apples get cooked down to mush. An applesauce masher like I have works really well to make it smooth, which is done while the apple mush is still boiling hot. (Be careful here–hot applesauce burns!) If you don’t have an applesauce masher, it’s okay if you leave it chunky, or you could experiment putting it in a blender.

Applesauce is great with pork chops (as shown here), as a side, or as desert. It also freezes well.

Alligator Sausage and Crawfish Casserole


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After numerous attempts, Gary and our friends Jason and Sam were successful in hunting their alligator! Thus, the game of finding tasty alligator recipes has commenced.

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Referring back to my post when we made sausage, I have to reiterate here that although I am no fan of guns or killing, and I never thought I’d become a proponent of my husband’s hunting hobby, I am a devout omnivore and absolutely love the taste of meat. Thus, if I’m going to consume something that was once living, I may as well look it in the face.

That said, let’s get on with the hunting story. Sam, Jason, and Gary have been after the elusive alligator all season. They’ve spent numerous evenings out on the lake in search of the big one. Sam and Jason caught two eight-footers two years ago, but this year they were much harder to find, so they were only able to get a 7-foot guy.

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None of the three had skinned an alligator before, but because they’re all DIYers, they brought the gator back to our carport and attempted the task. How do you skin a gator, you ask? Well, YouTube has all the answers you need. Mr. Deermeatfordinner posted a great tutorial video explaining how to extract the jelly roll and jowls, among other parts. (I have to admit, I think we all had a slight crush on Mr. Deermeatfordinner after watching it. The Allman Brothers music in the background was the perfect soundtrack. And it’s pretty cute when his pet pig chases around his dog.)

Alligator looks like chicken, and tastes similar to it, yet it’s a touch more rubbery. Truthfully, I’m not the biggest fan of gator meat, but I’ve found when you spice it up right, it’s a good source of lean, organic protein.

The casserole we made has two parts: we made alligator sausage first, and then we put that into the casserole.

Alligator Sausage Ingredients and Instructions:

1 pound ground alligator
1 pound ground pork
1/4 c chopped onions
1/4 c chopped celery
10 cloves diced garlic
1/4 c chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c chopped parsley
1/4 c sliced green onions
1 t sage
Hot sauce to taste

We first put the alligator in a food processor. Once shredded, we added all the rest of the ingredients. If you have a sausage maker, you can put this in casings. If you don’t, you can leave it ground.

For the casserole, you have to brown the meat. This recipe made twice as much sausage as we needed, so the remaining went in a ziplock in the freezer for later.

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Alligator Sausage and Crawfish Casserole Ingredients and Instructions:

1 pound alligator sausage; crumble, brown, drain
1 pound Crawfish tails taken from their shells (if you don’t have this, you can use shrimp)
2 c cooked or instant long-grain rice (the recipe I used called for “converted” rice. I didn’t know what that meant, so I used regular rice, and it didn’t cook all the way through. That night, Gary remembered that “converted” rice meant “instant” in his dream!! Too crazy. Live and learn.)
1 10oz can Rotelle tomatoes with chiles
1 c beef stock
1 bunch green onions
5 cloves garlic
1 lb mushrooms (we used our shittakes)
1 t Creole seasoning (I didn’t have this, so I used a combination of paprika, cayenne, cumin, and chili powder)
1/4 c butter

Mix alligator sausage with all ingredients. Put in a covered casserole dish and cook at 350 degrees for one hour. After half an hour, take out and stir. Put back in and cook for the remaining time.

Of course gator can always be amended by using chicken or shrimp, or any other creature you hunt from the land or swamp. But you have to make sure to toast the animal and give homage to it for its life before you eat, like we did.




Good mustard, in my opinion, can make all the difference in flavoring marinades, vinaigrettes, meats, and sandwiches. This recipe is incredibly simple to make, and has just as much flavor as the expensive mustards, yet you can make it for a fraction of the cost.


1/4 c brown mustard seeds
1/4 c yellow mustard seeds
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c beer (I used a lager, but I know a stout or porter would be great in it, too)
1 t honey
1 t turmeric powder (optional – this adds more color than flavor)
1 t salt


Combine all ingredients in a pint mason jar, and let sit for at least two days in room temperature. The seeds should soak up some of the liquid and become soft. After a couple of days, put the mixture in a food processor and blend until you like the consistency. I like mine still pretty coarse, but if you have a better food processor than I do and can get it to a smooth consistency, go for it.

It was great on our deer brats and sauerkraut the other day. It’s so good, in just a couple of weeks, we’ve almost finished our first batch. I’m planning on using a stout next time for a richer flavor.




I made sauerkraut for the first time a couple of weeks ago from leftover cabbage that didn’t get eaten when we had our fish taco party. It was way easier than I thought it was going to be, and it surprising tasted great! (For fermented vegetables, that is.) I gave my two-cents worth about fermentation awhile back, but kraut here definitely falls in that category. According to Michael Pollan in his book Cooked, he claims that the inexpensive kraut you buy in the store has been heated to the point where all the beneficial bacteria are no longer living. What’s the point in eating stinky vegetables if you aren’t going to get the bacterial benefits?

To make it, I chopped up a head of red cabbage (any kind of cabbage will work fine.) All the blogs I’ve read about fermenting things say that it is not an exact science. So, the instructions and ingredient amounts are vague here, but I got my recipe from other vague recipes, and it turned out just fine.

I chopped up the cabbage and put it into my crock made specifically for kraut making! But any large jar or container will do.

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After chopping your cabbage, put a layer of it down in the bottom of the jar/container. Then sprinkle with liberal amounts of kosher salt. Do this again and again until all the cabbage is gone. I used a potato masher to pound down the leaves in order to get the water out of the leaves; the salty water will preserve the cabbage and allow for the bacteria to thrive.

Put a plate on the top of your cabbage so it covers the entire top. And then put a weight to hold it down. I filled a mason jar with water and put it on top. Leave it sit for a couple of hours. If the water in the container hasn’t reached the bottom of the plate, add 1/8 c salt to a cup of water and dump it in. Do this until the water reaches the top of the plate.

Let your kraut sit on the counter at room temperature for about 2-3 days. Again, this might differ in the summer compared to the winter. Try it and see if it’s sour enough for you at the end of the couple of days. If not, let it sit for a couple more. If it’s perfect, fill mason jars with the cabbage and water, and stick it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. It should last for probably a year in the fridge.


In honor of Oktoberfest, we ate it on venison brats made from Gary’s brother’s deer he got last fall, and my homemade mustard. The mustard recipe is coming soon.

Kale & Mushroom Lasagne



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Mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms galore right now on our logs. Thus, sticking some of them between noodles and cheese seemed like the right thing to do.


1/2 package of lasagne noodles
1 container Ricotta cheese
2 c Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
6 cups tomato sauce
1/2 bunch kale
1 lb shittake mushrooms (or any other sautéing mushrooms)
1 T Herbs of Provence
1 T Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, slice the mushrooms and chop the kale, leaving out the center stem. Heat a skillet to medium heat, and throw in the kale and the mushrooms. If you have lots of time, do these one at a time. But, if you’re like me, and not concerned with details–especially since visuals don’t matter since they’re just going to be stuck between noodles–throw the kale and mushrooms in the skillet together. Sauté until cooked, or for 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

Next combine the cheese, herbs, S&P, and eggs in a bowl. (Truth be told, I skimped on the cheese in my version to try to make it a bit healthier….I wouldn’t recommend it. Dry lasagne is not nearly as tasty.) In your 9 x 13″ pan, put 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Next, layer the noodles. (I used the ones you don’t have to cook ahead of time.) Next spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture, and then 1/3 of the kale/mushroom combo. Do this two more times. Cover with foil and bake for 55 minutes, and take off the foil and let the cheese brown for the last 5 minutes.

Lasagne also freezes great and makes for wonderful left-overs.

Salmon with Hoisin glaze



I had Lauren over for dinner the other night since our husbands were out alligator hunting (they were unsuccessful in their attempt). I made salmon with hoisin glaze (which is far better than eating alligator, anyway).

The salmon came from a fishing trip Gary and I went on in Oregon during the summer. My great-uncle is an avid fisherman, and spends every day from early June to late July catching as many Kokanee salmon as he can to stock his freezers for winter. He taught us the tricks of the Kokanee-fishing trade when we were there.

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The process involves getting up at 3:45am (yikes!) to then head out on the lake. Coffee in hand, we’d troll around in the boat looking for schools of salmon. Each person has a limit of 25 fish per day.

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The fish are beautiful; they’re silvery in color, about a foot in length, and have bright red meat. At the end of their three year life-span, before they begin to breed and travel upstream, they undergo a complete metamorphosis. Their nose hooks and their color turns red and green. But while they’re in the younger years, these little guys are absolutely delicious to eat.


I got this recipe from Martha Stewart Living. And of course it works well with any store bought salmon.


1 T fresh orange juice
2 T hoisin sauce
2 t honey
4 salmon steaks (or a 1lb salmon fillet)


Combine the juice, hoisin, and honey in a bowl. Next, rinse the salmon and pat it dry. Put the glaze on the fish. You can cook it either on a skillet, in the oven, or on the grill. I like all three. Follow Martha‘s directions if you want the oven. For the skillet and grill, the time needed will depend on how thick your steak or fillet is. For an inch thick, try three to four minutes each side. I like mine rare to medium rare in the middle.

Serve with any remaining glaze.

Rooftop Gardens


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Okay, so this is neither a post about my own produce, nor about recipes, but I just got back from NYC and just had to share this inspirational rooftop garden! My garden, as I posted last week, is ordinary and easy to create. A garden on a rooftop, where all the soil, plants, fertilizer, water, ect. has to be brought up 7 stories, is exponentially more work (and way, way more awesome).

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The Brooklyn Grange is located right across the river from Manhattan. On their two roofs in NYC, they grow over 40,000 lbs of organic produce per year. Their mission extends beyond these two gardens, however; not only are they producing local organic produce for nearby restaurants, they also encourage others to make gardens out of unused space.

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On their website, they add this quote:

“At our core, we are a farm, and growing nutritious, tasty food is our passion.  Doing so in New York is our dream.  We believe that this city can be more sustainable; that our air can be cooler and waterways can be cleaner.  We believe that the 14% of our landfills comprised of food scraps should be converted into organic energy for our plants, and plants around the city via active compost programs.  We believe that food should be fresh, not sitting on the back of a flatbed for two weeks.  We believe that food should taste fresh.  Because at the end of the day, it’s about sitting down with our family, admiring that sunset over the city skyline, snacking on a perfectly ripe, sweet tomato and remembering: this is what real food is.”

In my opinion, though, it doesn’t have to be just cities; gardens can happen in a patch of your front lawn. But the end point is the same: sharing home-grown and homemade food with family and friends is one of the best ways you can show love.

Raised Garden Beds


Two weekends ago, Gary and I cleared out our raised garden beds, topped them off with new soil, and planted seeds and seedlings. We planted heirloom carrots, beets, radishes, arugula, mustard greens, mescalin lettuce mix, onions, cherry tomatoes, herbs of all sorts, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and beans. Since it’s the start of the fall planting season here in Florida, our crops should be ready for eating at the end of October.

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For those wondering how much time and space gardens take, believe me, I once wondered the same thing. Gardens seemed daunting, and the time spent didn’t seem to outweigh the money saved. Until, that is, I married a farm boy.

Gary grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois; his parents grew enough with their one acre to feed a family of five around the 12 months of the year. What they couldn’t eat in the summer, they processed, canned, froze and pickled. What I’ve learned from them and Gary is that, yes, it does take time to grow and keep produce, but both the cost and flavor factors are well worth the energy.

We live in the heart of our mid-sized college town surrounded by neighbors on all sides, yet we’ve managed to squeeze five garden beds in our backyard. Gary put in a drip irrigation system so we don’t have to water it ourselves (this saves on water, too, since it drips a prescribed amount right into the soil instead of some of it evaporating into the air, like with sprinklers.)

Spending a few weekends a year to re-haul the garden is well worth it; the countdown now begins until the first harvest.

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