August 1, 2018

Garden Fresh Tomatoes–Is there anything better?

by Toni Leland

Sliced fresh beefsteak tomatoes

What tastes better than tomatoes just off the vine, still warm from the sun? Nothing!

That was not a trick question.

All the hot weather this summer is keeping me busy with the hose, but tomatoes love the sun and ripen almost faster than we can eat them. In addition to a Better Bush slicing tomato, I tried what was labeled Big Red Beefsteak, but most assuredly is a cherry tomato. Apparently, someone switched the tags. I also planted seeds for container tomatoes called Tasmanian Chocolate cherry. The jury is still out on these...they are quite misshapen and have more leaves than fruit. Maybe the crazy weather caused it?

Last year, I discovered that the raccoons also like warm, fresh tomatoes. To my dismay, the batch I'd intended to pick "first thing tomorrow morning" had already been picked over. Most of them were on the ground with big bites out of them. I was not pleased.

So this year, as the fruit gets to within about 1 to2 days of picking, I will go out at dusk and pluck the almost-ripe fruit and put it in a basket on the kitchen counter, where the tomatoes will continue to ripen. I may not be picking at the peak of perfection, but it's better than Mr. Raccoon's leftovers!

One of my favorite breakfasts as a child was fresh chunks of tomato swimming in cream and sprinkled with sugar and nutmeg!  Oh my. Try it–you'll like it!

And who can resist a beefsteak tomato sandwich on fresh sourdough bread?

Or in Vegetable Lasagna? Try this version of mine, with compliments.

Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

Serves 6

Instead of heavy tomato sauce, this light cheesy sauce enhances the flavor of the fresh tomatoes.

3  tbsp butter (salted or unsalted)

2  tbsp Wondra Quick Mixing Flour

1/4  tsp cayenne pepper (optional, but really good!)

2  cups 2% milk

1/2  cup grated Parmesan cheese

2  tbsp canola oil

1/2  of large sweet yellow bell pepper

1/2  cup Vidalia or other sweet onion

2  tsp minced garlic (or 3 cloves fresh)

2  cups low fat cottage cheese (2%)

1/3  cup chopped fresh basil leaves

3  cups shredded mozzarella cheese

9  whole grain lasagna noodles, cooked

2  medium zucchini

2  medium beefsteak tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Use a 13 x 9 baking dish.
nutritional data for vegetable lasagna

  1. Slice yellow pepper lengthwise. Cut zucchini on the diagonal into 1/4” slices. Slice tomatoes 1/4” thick. Slice onion thinly.
  2. Melt butter in a medium pan and stir in flour and cayenne; cook until bubbling, stirring constantly.
  3. Add milk slowly, stirring to blend. Cook until mixture thickens, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and garlic, stir, and set aside.
  5. Combine cottage cheese and basil.
  6. Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Place 3 noodles on top. Add half the cottage cheese mixture.
  7. Layer the sliced vegetables starting with the tomato, then onion, then zucchini, then bell pepper.
  8. Add 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 1/3 of the sauce.
  9. Repeat two more times, starting with noodles and ending with sauce.
  10. Cover and bake 55 minutes.
  11. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before cutting.
This recipe also lends itself nicely to a light marinara sauce, for those who prefer that flavor. Simply replace the cream sauce with 2 cups of marinara or pasta sauce of your choice.

Vegetable Lasagna with marinara sauce.

May 16, 2018

The Perfect Watering Nozzle

Watering the gardens is a daily routine and finding the perfect hose nozzle is important. For someone with arthritis and painful joints, holding a squeeze trigger nozzle is very uncomfortable after just a few minutes.

In my opinion, the Gilmour Thumb Control Watering Nozzle is perfect! The lever moves easily, allowing you to control the force of the water coming out. The nozzle grip is a good size, perfect for small hands and with a rubberized surface for "gripability." 

One of the best features of this watering device is the swivel base—no more kinks and sore wrists from trying to the get the nozzle into the correct angle!

The nozzle head includes eight patterns, from regular “sprinkling can” shower to stream and jet to fine mist for those delicate flowers and seedlings. The entire nozzle is well constructed and feels substantial and durable.

The Gilmour Thumb Control Watering Nozzle is a must for every gardener, and would make a great gift for the gardeners in your life.

Note: I received this product for my honest review, I am using it, and I highly recommend it.