...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Something's Coming Up!

I opened the coldframe the other day and noticed that the spinach seeds were starting to germinate. Warmer spring weather is near. Actually, I think it's just a tease from this unseasonably warm January we've had.

Although I can't do much in the garden these days, there is still much to do indoors to maintain the homestead. Did I mention we have worms? Vermicomposters that is. We keep a compost bin in our basement during the winter months so we can continue to compost our kitchen scraps (and Vera's wet diapers--good nitrogen source!) and have a pound or so of red wigglers to help. The outdoor composter sits idle in the winter and is then unloaded in the spring and the compost spread on our vegetable garden beds. The basement bin will become the beginning of next season's outdoor bin. With this system we've been able to create all of the compost we need for our vegetable garden each year. Something I finally learned last year is to crush up the egg shells so that there aren't big shells sitting in the garden (they don't break down as fast as we'd like.) So now I keep a covered bowl in the fridge and put my shells in it. Every few days I whizz them in my mini chopper and put them into the compost bucket under the sink.

We're preparing for a cross-country family vacation in the next few days. We'll be visiting Portland, OR. A 2-night train trip with an almost-eleven-month-old is sure to be an adventure. We'll spend a couple nights in wine country then check out the city of Portland. We're planning to visit one of Ben's friends from college who has CHICKENS! Ranchero and Foo Yung are their names and I can't wait to meet them and learn more about keeping backyard poultry. So I'm cleaning out the fridge before out trip. Using random ingredients to make something halfway decent reminds me of college days when I could whip up a mean casserole from just about anything in the pantry. Needing to use leftover steamed broccoli, ricotta, blue cheese and some egg whites, here's a recipe for Baked Pasta with Broccoli.

Baked Penne Pasta with Broccoli and Three Cheeses
Serves 4-6

1 lbs. rice penne pasta, uncooked
Kosher salt
1 t. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. fresh broccoli crowns and stems, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and steamed
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 c. crumbled blue cheese
1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg whites, beaten with the whole eggs
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
nonstick cooking spray (I prefer coconut oil spray) or butter papers.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a casserole with cooking spray or grease with butter papers. Salt the cooking water to "sea water saltiness" before boiling. Cook pasta to al dente and drain well. Toss with olive oil. Combine pasta with broccoli, 1/4 c. Parmesan, blue cheese, ricotta, and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into prepared dish and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

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