Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Category: Recipes

YUM!! – Autumn Apple Butter Recipe to Share

Recipe courtesy of the Kielstrup’s Kitchen (Thanks Becky!!)

Start with 4# apples, quartered – do not peel

Hand-Picked Locally Grown Apples

Put in large saucepan with 2 cups water and 1 cup apple cider vinegar, cook until apples are soft. Then put the mix through food mill to make apple sauce like consistency. Transfer puree mix back to pot, add ½ cup of sugar for every 1 cup of puree.

Then add spices:

  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ of lemon
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • Dash of salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, if desired

Cook on stove top for 1-2 hours stirring consistently or cook on low in crock pot for 4-6 hours – but keep an eye on it! You are done when mix is reduced in half. It will thicken as it cools. Refrigerate final product or can for storage. Water bath can for 10 minutes.

For more seasonal recipes, click here!


Seasonal Recipe: Tomato Tart

Take advantage of the season before it’s completely over (always too soon!!). Nothing says “summer” like a fresh, juicy, just-picked tomato. If you’re fortunate to have plants of your own, or can find your way to the bounty of a local farmer’s market, go ahead and try a new recipe like this one.

For more information on the Dane County Farmer’s Market, click here.



  • Prepared unsweetened pie dough for an 8-inch tart pan or 4-by-13-inch rectangular tart pan
  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup goat cheese
  • 1 pound tomatoes (any combination of red, yellow, heirloom, cherry), sliced if large or halved if small
  • ½ cup crumbled feta or Stilton cheese
  • 8 sliced basil leaves
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the pan with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and line the tart pan with it, pressing excess dough against the sides to make a thicker edge. Prick bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes, remove weights and parchment and bake another 7 or 8 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Let cool.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions are lightly browned.

Spread the onions over bottom of the crust and dot with goat cheese. Arrange tomatoes on top in a mosaic pattern. Dot with the feta or Stilton cheese and push olives into the top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Preheat broiler. Cover the edge of the crust with foil to protect it from burning and broil until tart is lightly browned and bubbly, 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and garnish with basil.

For more delicious, seasonal recipes – click here!

Avant Gardening’s Asparagus Risotto with Mushrooms

Sick of asparagus yet?! Looking for a great recipe to use up the last of your last harvest?

This Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto is the best comfort food ever! It takes some patience to make, but really isn’t that difficult! Experiment with this recipe if you’re looking for something new to try in the kitchen.

This recipe is slightly modified from one that was provided during a local cooking class. One of our landscape designers learned how to make risotto at Bekah Kate’s in Baraboo, WI! If you’re up that direction, stop in! They have excellent class options and a fun, laid-back atmosphere. For more information, visit: Cooking Classes at Bekah Kate’s



  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 10 oz. mushrooms
  • 1 cup peas
  • 4 cups (maybe more) low-salt chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter (depending on amount of veggies)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or sage
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)


Snap off tough ends from asparagus; discard. Cut off asparagus tips and reserve. Cut stalks into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Add olive oil to large saucepan over medium heat, add asparagus stalks, mushrooms and peas. Sauté until tender and lightly browned (add more butter if necessary). Remove from pan and set aside.

Melt a tablespoon of butter, add onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute so that rice is covered with butter/oil. Add wine and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and chopped rosemary or sage; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, adding more broth one ladle at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding more, stirring often.

Add reserved asparagus tips and vegetables that were set aside earlier. Continue cooking until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding broth as needed and stirring often, about 5-10 minutes longer. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer risotto to bowl. Garnish with more parmesan cheese and rosemary sprigs, if desired.

Dig in! YUM!

Look What We Found!! Morel Mushroom Sighting at Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Hooray, spring is here! While it’s time for flowers and showers, it’s also time for Morels!

These little, golden beauties are a favorite of mushroom eaters and mushroom hunters everywhere. Each spring hundreds of people take to the woods to look for these delicious little treasures. 20160502_113534_croppedIf there is one thing I remember from my forest ecology course it’s never to eat a wild mushroom unless you are absolutely, 100% certain you know what it is. This statement is not to be taken lightly considering there are over 10,000 species of mushroom in North America alone and only about 25% of those are edible.

Fortunately for us the Morel is relatively easy to identify. It has a distinct appearance and only one real look alike, which also fortunately enough is not toxic but can make you sick. Across the country, hunting Morels is a spring time tradition for many. There is even a website, www.morelhunters.com that contains updated soil temperatures, message boards and a Morels sightings map. People who hunt for Morels will tell you it is addicting. There is something about finding that hidden jewel in the forest, and then another, and another and hopefully just one more… They typically grow on the edge of a forest especially at the base of dead elm, ash and oak trees. However, we recently found some growing right out Avant Gardening & Landscaping‘s back door next to our bluestone patio!

The small town of Muscoda, WI devotes an entire weekend each year to the Morel. This year the 34th annual Morel Mushroom Festival will be May 14th-15th. It features arts and crafts, music, helicopter rides, a parade, and of course all the Morel related food and drink you could want.

While there are several ways to prepare Morels perhaps most popular is simply to sauté them in butter. Given that they are tasty, rather elusive and frequently drenched in butter is it any wonder these funky fungi are so popular?20160502_101135

Wondering what else you can do with these weird little mushrooms? Try this awesome recipe from Muscoda’s Morel Website!

Pasta With Morel Mushroom Cream Sauce


  • 1 lb. homemade pasta or ½ lb. Capellini or thin Linguine (Linguine Fina)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter (or your favorite substitute)
  • As many morels as you can find or substitute 6 ounces dry morels or porchini mushrooms* or one pound of fresh white button mushrooms, Cremini mushrooms or Portabello mushrooms.
  • ½ cup of cream or half and half (you can substitute any soup stock or the water from reconstituting dry mushrooms instead of cream if you want to go low cal.)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped wild leeks or garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh coarsely chopped parsley
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (to taste)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)


Slice mushrooms into bite size slices. *If using dried mushrooms reconstitute them in a bowl by covering them in warm water for half an hour. Then, lift them from the water and squeeze out most of the liquid. Reserve the liquid.

Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté on medium heat. As the mushrooms begin to release their juices, stir in the wild leeks or garlic, the chopped parsley and a pinch of salt.

While the mushrooms are cooking, cook and drain the pasta so it will be ready as soon as the mushroom sauce is done. If the mushrooms begin to dry out, add a little water (use the mushroom water if using dry mushrooms). Cook the mushrooms until they begin to brown in spots. Stir in the cream.

Heat through until the mixture thickens a little (you can add more cream if you are serving 4 or more people). Stir in a tablespoon or two of grated cheese and add some black pepper. In a large serving bowl mix pasta with the cream sauce a little at a time. if you add too much pasta it will be dry. Serve with fresh ground black pepper and grated cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs. This should serve from 4 to 6 people, depending on appetites…

For more great morel recipes, visit: Muscoda Morel Mushroom Recipes

Enjoy an Avant Favorite: Comfort Food to Warm You this Winter

Check your calendar. It’s hard to believe Groundhog Day, 2015 is upon us!

And while the Avant Gardening and Landscaping team doesn’t know which groundhog will predict what – there’s the world-famous Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, and Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie – we do know many of us may still end up hunkering down for a few more months of winter. This can be the perfect time to treat yourself, and your loved ones, to some warm comfort food. One of our favorites is a variation on Beef Stew. We’ve adapted a wonderful recipe found in Gourmet Magazine, but this one may help you use up some of the root vegetables you still have in storage.


Braised Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots (Serves 12)


For braised beef:

  • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 carrots, quartered
  • 3 celery ribs, quartered
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (Cabernet or Zinfandel works well)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups water

For potatoes and carrots:

  • 2 1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots


Braise beef:  Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, Brown meat without crowding, in 3 batches, turning about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.

Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 12-minutes, until well browned.

Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook paste, stirring for 2 minutes. Now stir paste together with vegetables.

Add vinegar and cook; stirring for 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, bay leaves, and thyme. Boil until wine is reduced by about two thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add broth to pot, along with water, beef, and any juices from platter. Bring mixture to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven, about 2 1/2 hours, until meat is very tender.

Set a large colander into a large bowl. Pour stew into colander. Return pieces of meat to pot. Discard remaining solids. Let cooking liquid stand for 10 minutes.

Cook potatoes and carrots:  Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Slice carrots diagonally (1-inch), while beef is braising.

Add potatoes and carrots to stew (make sure to submerge both) and simmer while uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Dish up, and we hope you enjoy your warm comfort stew as much as we do!