Our Little Homestead – Veggie Update

I’m sure you all remember the riveting account of my semi-crazy garden planning process. If not, you can review. Well buckle up kids you’re headed for a full-on garden update! Yep, we’ve got veggies, and heat. (You like that cliff-notes summary?)

As soon as the weather started warming up our veggies took off. In fact we’ve got wild strawberries growing in the yard next to the driveway! It’s been fun to watch the plants grow and start to produce fruit. We planted a variety of things just to see what would do well. Check out the garden in full bloom!

First out of the gate were the herbs: rosemary, dill, oregano, basil, mint, lemongrass and chives are still going strong. Some are doing better than others. (I may have to put a muzzle on the mint it’s getting a little rowdy!) We’ve also had a lot of luck with eggplant, squash and jalapenos. These three plants must be in their prime location because they are still producing obscene amounts of produce. We’ve resorted to freezing most of it for later use because we just can’t eat it all! Speaking of the jalapeños or as I like to call them little hell demons. They are UNBELIVEABLY hot. We casually cut the first up and threw a few rings on our tacos. BIG mistake, my mouth burned for hours. For some reason they are much hotter when you grow them yourself. Noted. You win this round jalapeño.

Our tomatoes, chili peppers, habaneros, swiss chard, onions and carrots are just now starting to peak. So we expect to get a lot more off them in the next few weeks. (We’re actually a little afraid to try the habanero because we’ve tasted how much hotter the Jalapenos are. We’ll see who draws the short straw.) Our more delicate plants like, lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, and fennel did well in the spring but quickly died out when the heat closed in. Which is different than when the night closes in…(in case you were wondering.)

Speaking of the heat. It’s hot…like really hot. The southeast is in the middle of one nasty heat wave. I know what you’re thinking:

I know its summer but I still wanna whine about how hot it is! GAH! Actually, it has been hotter than normal here in good ol’ NC. In case you’ve been living under a rock and hadn’t heard I’ll tell you that NC had about 5 days at 106 degrees. It was so hot a road melted. That may sound like a redneck statement but this one is actually true! This heatwave obviously meant that everyone and their mom had to post photos of their thermometers showing the heat…like we hadn’t heard it on the news all day.

ANYWAYS, rant aside. This smoldering heat has played a huge role on our yard. Our grass is brown and we may have lost a few plants (RIP: hanging fern), but we’re watering daily and we think most of the plants will make it.

We’ve been trying some new recipes that utalize our bounty and they have been delish. I’ll be adding the recipes soon so you can make them at home! So far we’ve made:

  • Lemon & dill fish
  • Tomato soup
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Stuffed jalapenos
  • Eggplant and zucchini lasagna
  • And dried herbs

We’re only halfway through the summer which means we’ve got a lot more growing to do. I’ll keep you posted on new harvests and any new meals!

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese – Alton Brown Style

This year for Thanksgiving we wanted to be able to bring a dish that could become “our signature dish.” So, after some searching around we came upon this recipe and thought to ourselves “Who doesn’t like Mac & Cheese?” So, we whipped up a test batch to be sure we’d be confident bringing this to an event. We poured our heart and soul into it. And we tasted it and were like “Meh.” We couldn’t believe that Alton Brown would make anything that tasted like meh. Turns out we accidentally added double the amount of macaroni than the recipe calls for. WHOOPS. So, the next time we added the correct noodle/sauce ratio. We also decided to add bacon and tomatoes because we thought it would be a match made in Mac & Cheese heaven. The verdict? We were right, it was amazing. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

If you’re feeling fancy:

  • 1 large tomato (diced)
  • 4 strips of bacon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
  4. Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
  5. Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.