To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Wow Your Friends...with Zucchini

Remember these two guys? The monstrous zucchini plants that stand chest high? The ones that have already produced so much and shaded out some of my herbs and tomato plants that I actually took one of them out of the garden? Well, I have found a new use for the abundance on zucchini, and I would love to share it with you!

This a very small sampling of what I took from just one of the plants. After I shredded and froze some of it, sauteed some as a side dish, broiled some with grated Parmesan and pawned some of it off to friends who didn't grow a garden this year, I have found a new and yummy way to eat the zucchini... Zucchini Cobbler! 

I am not kidding. It is delicious. My friend Sandy brought this dessert to our church group, and we all gobbled it up. People came back for seconds. I asked for the recipe so that I could make a dish of it to share at our neighborhood BBQ this weekend. You must try it!
It's super simple. Take one of those large zucchini that somehow grew quadruple in size overnight, peel it, remove some of the seeds (if its very seedy), dice it and then toss 8 cups of it into a saucepan with some lemon juice. Heat this up over medium heat until slightly soft and then stir in some sugar, cinnamon and grated nutmeg.

While you are cooking up the zucchini, make a quick crumb mixture with butter, flour and sugar. Press half of it into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan. Stir some of this buttery-flour mixture into your cooked zucchini to thicken it and then pour the hot zucchini mixture into your baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top and place the dish into the oven to bake. 

What you end up with is a tasty dessert that tastes much like an apple cobbler.'re eating veggies for dessert! Let me know if you give this dessert a try, or if you have any other creative ways to use up the gluttony of zucchini from the garden!

Zucchini Cobbler

8 cups peeled, diced zucchini
1/2 - 2/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook and stir zucchini and lemon juice until zucchini is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg and cook one minute more. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine flour and 2 cups sugar. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir 1/2 cup of butter mixture into zucchini mixture. Press half of remaining butter mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Spread zucchini mixture over top of crust, and sprinkle remaining butter mixture over zucchini. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Third Place Winner

Last week was the annual Clark County Master Gardener Volunteer Appreciation Night. That's quite the title, isn't it? I haven't always been able to attend the volunteer appreciation event, but this year we happened to be home, so I was excited to go. I have been a volunteer Master Gardener in my county since 2011, and this last year I reached a total of 500 service hours as a Master Gardener!
As part of the event, we were asked to bring a dessert to share. Each attendee would get to cast three votes (we were given three beans each) for their favorite desserts of the evening. I had asked my husband which dessert I should bring for the contest. After much debate on our morning walk -- a pie or a crisp or my favorite chocolate chip cookies -- his final and ultimate suggestion was baklava. This is a dessert that I have made most Easters for the last ten years or so. I came across the recipe in a Sunset magazine in 2006. It is not one I would have thought to bring, because I typically only associate it with Easter. His reasoning was that it would be different enough to stand out. As usual, he ended up being right! This baklava recipe, from a 2006 Sunset magazine, landed itself in third place for the evening. It was beat out by a blueberry-rhubarb custard and some homemade eclairs.

It's a relatively simple recipe to make. You pulse together in a food processor almonds, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Melt a cup of butter, have a thawed package of filo dough at hand, and you are ready to assemble the dessert. Once you layered these all according to the recipe, you use a knife to cut your squares or diamonds and slide the dessert into the oven to bake. While the baklava is baking, you combine sugar, water, honey and a cinnamon stick in a saucepan and heat to make a simple syrup. This syrup gets poured over the baked baklava. The whole dish is allowed to sit for a few hours (or overnight). It's as simple as that!

I placed individual pieces of baklava in paper cupcake liners, so that they were easier to serve at the dessert table. Really the only thing missing was a strong cup of coffee to go with these treats! If you haven't made baklava before, I encourage you to give it a try! It's a simple dessert to assemble that tastes like it took more effort than you really put into it. And who knows, it might earn you accolades with those you serve it to!

Happy Baking!

Baklava - from Sunset Magazine

1 cup sugar1 cup coarsely chopped almonds1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 pound filo dough (see notes)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and skimmed of white foam, for brushing filo
Whole cloves (optional)
Spiced syrup (recipe follows)

  • Preheat oven to 325°.
  • In a blender or food processor, whirl 1/2 cup sugar with the almonds and walnuts just until finely ground (don't overprocess or mixture may turn into nut butter). Pour into a bowl and stir in remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.
  • Unroll filo dough and cover with plastic wrap. Keep filo covered as you work so it doesn't dry out.
  • Brush bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with melted butter. Line pan with 1 sheet of filo (it can extend over pan sides). One at a time, layer 7 more sheets over the first, gathering each to fit into pan and lightly brushing each with butter.
  • Sprinkle a fourth of the nut mixture over buttered filo in pan. Lay another sheet of filo on top, gathering it to fit into pan and brushing with butter. Repeat layering of nut mixture with filo sheets and butter until all nut mixture is used.
  • Layer all but one of the remaining filo sheets on top, gathering each to fit pan and brushing with butter. Lay the last sheet flat on top and brush with butter. Trim to fit pan.
  • With a sharp knife, cut a 2-inch diamond pattern about 1/4 inch deep. If desired, cut a small hole in the center of each diamond and insert a clove to anchor layers. Bake until top is golden and crisp and edges pull away from pan sides, 45 to 55 minutes. Set pan on a rack.
  • Slice along cuts, almost (but not completely) to bottom. Pour spiced syrup over baklava. Let stand to absorb most of the syrup, at least 3 hours. Cut through bottom layer and serve.
  • Spiced syrup: In a medium pan, mix 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 cinnamon stick (about 3 in. long). Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to about 1 3/4 cups and has the texture of light syrup, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally, 15 to 25 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.

Growing Day Neutral Strawberries

Are you considering adding strawberries to your garden? If so, you may want to head over to Suburban Garden Life and read about the day neutral strawberries I grow in our backyard. This variety of strawberries produces berries throughout the summer and until the first fall frost. They are great to have for picking the whole season long!
Happy Gardening!

Summer Garden Update

We have not had too many hot days so far this summer, and I am not complaining. I know it will be here soon enough. Over the last couple of weeks we even had some fantastic thunder and lightening storms that we don't typically see. Despite not roasting under the hot summer sun, our garden is doing quite well! Our blueberry patch is bursting and ready to be picked. It is a fight to get to them before the birds. Those rascals take one nip out of a berry and then move onto the next one. We still pick the bird eaten berries and feed those to the chickens. The girls LOVE blueberries! 

Our potted Baby Cakes Blackberry has set some really good fruit this year too. This was a birthday gift to myself last year. I love that we have a few blackberries to nibble on while hanging out in the backyard. Our two new trellising blackberry plants should be in full fruiting production next season, so that will be nice! 

This is a new veggie bed for us. Our raspberry patch had been in this spot for a number of years, but unfortunately they ended up with a virus that is spread by aphids and we had to remove them. So, we made use of the space and added a new vegetable bed. This one is four by twelve feet. Believe it or not, there are tomato plants behind those gigantic zucchini. I have never had zucchini grow so dang tall! I imagine they will actually shade out the tomatoes, but there is really nothing I can do about it at this point. There were some herbs in there as well...somewhere. I guess we will see if I can find them after zucchini season!

Our other vegetable beds are doing pretty well this year too. I gave up on growing green beans though. After three attempts at starting seeds and watching the birds swoop in and nibble them down, I gave up! The bed pictured above is one of four beds we added last year. This particular bed is full of lettuce, basil, beets, parsley, a few strawberry plants, and of course the zinnias. Next year, it will strictly be a strawberry bed as they will have sent out runners and filled up the bed. Yay for more strawberries! In our other raised beds we have pickling cucumbers, onions, potatoes, more beets, peppers, kale, broccoli and some brussel sprouts. I just pulled the last of the sugar snap peas (the ones that survived our dog eating them) to make room for the cucumbers to start climbing the trellis. And, once the rest of the onions are finished, I will throw in another crop of some sort. I just haven't decided yet.

The chickens love when I cut the grass. It's like a salad bar for lunch! They also are great for snacking on any of the slugs I gather from the garden. It is hilarious to toss a slug into their run and watch them chase each other around to see who gets to eat it. Lucky for them, finding slugs here in the Pacific Northwest is not so difficult, so they all end up with a treat!

I found one of our kitties, Bubs, hanging out between our grapes and apples this afternoon. He is looking quite perturbed at having to wear his collar. But, with all of the fledgling birds I have seen in the last few weeks, I don't want to risk him catching one of them. This silly collar has drastically reduced the number of 'gifts' he has left at our back door. If your kitty is a naughty bird catcher too, you can make a fabric collar for him in less than ten minutes!

Our summer garden has also been full of insects. Some of them are admittedly pests, but then others are beneficial. Like this beautiful Painted Lady Butterfly. I watched it flit from the rhubarb to the blueberries to the flowers while I watered the vegetable garden this afternoon. It finally stayed still long enough for me to snap a photo of it. 
On the whole, I think our summer garden is off to a great start. I  can't wait to start pulling in some of the beets and cucumbers to pickle them, and I need to start picking the blueberries and getting them into the freezer (or a dessert!). In a few short days we will be overrun by zucchini, and you may find me sneaking them onto my neighbor's doorstep in the middle of the night. I can't wait to see what the rest of the summer brings to the garden.
How is your garden doing this summer? Hopefully you have had more successes than complications! It seems that every year is a bit of an experiment. It's one of the things I love about gardening!

Summer Knitting on the Back Deck

I hadn't thought I had made much progress on my sweater this month, until I looked at photos of where I was last month. I might just be wearing it this winter, if I keep working at this rate. That is an exciting thought, and it keeps me plugging along. I have found the perfect time for knitting this summer is in the afternoon on my back deck. 
If I am not sitting on the deck knitting, you will probably find me there reading. This month I re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I read this years ago when it first came out, and I loved it then. Netflix released a movie based on this book last year, and it was beautifully filmed. Watching the movie made me want to read the book all over again. I happened to find a copy of it in our library's second hand book section, so I picked it up to read. I loved this book just as much the second time around!
One other book I have been enjoying this month is Anne of Green Gables. I had read it when I was younger, and it has been fun to come back to it as an adult. Instead of reading it though, I have been listening to an audio version of it presented on Craft Lit. I had never listened to any of the classic literature recorded on Craft Lit before, so this has been a treat! I love that Heather leads you into each chapter with information that might be helpful to know...defining no longer used terms, explaining social customs of the period, etc. And the woman who narrates each chapter has the perfect storytelling voice for Anne of Green Gables. This podcast is a perfect combination of an English class and book club. I am really enjoying it!

Here is where you will find me in the afternoons! Our back deck is covered, so I can sit in the shade and knit or read quite comfortably. I have a few potted plants set out on the deck this year, and they are filling in nicely. My husband had taken the time to refinish our deck furniture last month, so everything is looking really nice. 

This Astrantia flower (or Masterwort) came home with me one afternoon this month after I had a mammogram. It seemed appropriate that after a procedure like that, one should be rewarded. So I picked up a cappuccino and headed to the nursery. I bought three of these plants, one pink and two white. They are all planted near the back deck so that I can appreciate their beautiful flowers.

A few years ago, we shortened our deck which allowed me to increase this ornamental bed. I am loving all of the layers and different shades of green as the different flowers, shrubs and trees mature. Thankfully most of these plants have proven to be tolerant of our dog Sadie walking through them.

At the corner post of our deck is this Jasmine. My boys bought it for me as a Mother's Day gift seven or eight years ago. It started out as a small vine about two feet tall, and now it has grown to the top of the post and is inching it's way along both sides of the roof line. If you look at the top of the Jasmine, you will see a small, red birdhouse. This spring we had a pair of chickadees nesting in there. It was fun to watch the pair of birds flit back and forth, first building their next and then bringing food for their young. The three little chickadees fledged in June, and we were lucky enough to be home to watch it happen. What clumsy little fluffballs they were!
I am loving my afternoons on the back deck. It's a peaceful spot to hangout by myself or with family or friends. How about you? Do you have a favorite spot to sit and knit or read on a summer afternoon?
~ Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along