From The Garden | Tuscan Pasta Bowl

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be an author. I wrote my first book in second grade for my retiring teacher. It was about our class pet, a hamster, who ended up escaping and living in my garden. So far, it's the only book I've ever finished. I kept trying. In middle school, I wrote about teenage drama; in high school I tried writing fantasy and dramatic fiction. The only thing that worked for me was writing screenplays. I could finish them easily; there were no added details, just dialogue and actions. I wrote five screenplays my senior year of high school. I read my first blog back in 2007. After that, I really can't remember how I came across others. It kind of seems like a blur, the internet way back when, and I was still really young. But I loved reading blogs. I loved getting to know other people on their own internet space. All I could think about was trying it myself, starting a blog and writing about my life, writing about how I could possibly entertain the lives of other people with my interests and hobbies. Maybe I would connect with others who shared similar ideas and interests as well. My mom still recounts the days when she started blogging, back before they were businesses, when it was just a fun way to connect with other artists across the country and the world. They would trade handmade goods with each other every month. I remember watching her create new things for friends that she had only met virtually.

I started my first blog when I was around thirteen. I wanted to try making up-cycled vintage clothing, but I was too busy being a kid to keep up with it. I tried others in high school, but nothing stuck. Now I'm writing this blog, and after two years, it finally feels like a real blog. I make a little money off of it, I write consistently, and I love doing it with all of my heart. The thing with blogging is that you can do whatever you want. Sure, you wonder how people will receive your work, but it's not the same as finishing an entire novel and sending it off to a publisher to critique. Here, I feel published, even though that's not true. I see who my readers are, I hear your opinions and your kindness. I see that you make the things I offer, and that you take my advice and even give me some. It's a tiny community that grows larger with each published post, and I am so grateful. To me, this space is my safe zone, one where I can begin to cultivate ideas for a real book. It's a place where I can practice becoming a real author, where I can dream.

And I've been starting to realize that even though in the past I was trying to write fiction, perhaps it was time to start thinking about writing more about homesteading. Our garden is such a huge part of our lives and our kitchen. It occurred to me that I was writing and talking so often about growing your own food to cook with, to eat, that I wasn't even sharing the recipes that we create with the produce from our garden. It all kind of revolves around that small space outdoors. I need to share that here! Today, I'm starting a new series called, "From The Garden" where I'll be sharing recipes with items straight from our garden. I hope these recipes are ones that can inspire you to try growing some of these varieties in your own backyard. They even work great if you're more of a farmer's market shopper. These will be made from what is in season, what is growing in the month, and I am really excited to keep this up. Don't worry - I'll still be adding to Colonial Kitchen. It's got a special place in my heart that I'm not ready to give up on yet. Again, it's kind of a weird series around here, but that's okay. 

This recipe is kind of a classic in our family. It's an Italian inspired pasta dish that we throw together in the summer when we want something more filling than a salad, but we also don't want to eat a meal filled with cheese and meat. Actually, in recent weeks we've completely cut out meat from the grocery store. I mentioned a couple weeks ago in our The Truth Behind Our Food series, which follows my journey through learning more about eating whole foods, that we had kind of fallen off the wagon and were struggling with eating better. We had been eating out a lot, buying processed items, and talking about how it was okay to get chicken nuggets every now and then. Well, we've kicked ourselves in the butts enough times already and are making up for it now. No more chicken nuggets, no more packaged snacks, and no more eating out. Every single time it is mind boggling to see how terrible you can feel after eating a meal out at a place that doesn't really make all of their food (like a chain or fast food place) compared to a week of eating only meals that you cook yourself. We made the decision to not bring in grocery store meats anymore, to just eat local meats that we purchase from farmers and eat more vegetable dishes. For the past two weeks, we've eaten a local chicken once and vegetables all other nights. Wow! Such a difference.

I love this particular meal because you don't feel like you're missing out on much. It fills you well, it's the perfect temperature for warm summer afternoons and nights, and it tastes freaking amazing, okay? I'll say it. Not to toot my own horn, but I am becoming a really good cook. I don't know if my written recipes translate well, but I am the cook of the house, and it just stays that way. I love experimenting in the kitchen and finding new things that we can make with ingredients from our garden. All of the ingredients in this recipe are currently in season here in the Midwest for July, so if you're growing or heading out the farmer's market, you can pick these up!

INGREDIENTS | 

  • 1 cup penne pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 large tomato or 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • handful of spinach, ends removed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
  • fresh parsley for garnish
  • feta cheese for garnish
  • salt and pepper

RECIPE | 

  1. Boil your pasta according to package directions.
  2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it sparkles. Cook the onions and garlic until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, and tomato. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the spinach and herbs, whether dried or fresh. Leave the parsley for later. Stir and cook until the spinach is softened and bright green. It should be smelling yummy! Adjust your heat as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Drain and pasta and add it to the skillet. Stir until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Turn the heat down to low and let the tomato juices reduce a bit, about 7-10 minutes. 
  5. Serve topped with fresh parsley leaves and feta cheese.

This meal is a perfect lunch or dinner. It takes about 20 minutes, and I love that I can pick a majority of it from our garden at this time of year. The only thing I'm missing right now it garlic, but we'll have plenty for next year! I truly cannot wait to plant garlic over the winter. How fun! Go outside and gather up your zucchinis and tomatoes - they are awaiting to be made into this tasty dish! This is also a great gathering meal to serve. I am sure your guests would love it. Enjoy! (:

xoxo Kayla