the zucchini harvest

Zucchini is taking over my life (with squash in a close 2nd).  This summer, zucchini has been harvested early and often.  Although we harvest a bunch at one time, it has averaged one a day.  Ironically I couldn’t find one zucchini last year.  We didn’t grow any nor did I see them at the farmer’s market.  I suppose we’re making up for lost time this summer.  My thoughts and research are consumed with zucchini and different ways to cook and eat it.  I refuse to waste any of it and giving it all away is just too easy at this point.

I’ve challenged us to eat zucchini at least twice daily.  And you know what?  It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought. There is the obvious choice: Grilled Zucchini.

the great zucchini harvest of 2015

And the most pleasing choice: Zucchini Bread… and muffins… and mini muffins.  We’ve had our share but I’ve also found healthier ways to utilize the harvest.

Zucchini muffins

 

Zucchini Soup

Last week, I made zucchini soup.  Yes, soup!  It was very tasty as a gazpacho as well.  Unfortunately I do not have a formal recipe to share as this is a work in progress but I can explain the process.  Almost all of our zucchini goes through the food processor for shredding, aside from those that we slice up and grill.  I used about 4 cups of shredded zucchini for our soup.  After sauteing onion and garlic in a large pot, I added the zucchini and 2-3 cups of water to boil.  Plus all of the fresh herbs I could get my hands on.  Namely, basil.  About 2 cups.  Plus oregano, marjoram and chives all snipped fresh from the garden.  I seasoned with salt & cayenne pepper.  I reduce to a simmer and used my immersion blend to puree the combination.  We ate it just like that but decided the smooth soup would make a great base for shrimp.  Next time!  There will definitely be a next time to continue to tweak zucchini soup.

Shredded Zucchini

Zucchini Juice

We also tried juicing zucchini which I am not a big fan of on its own.  It tastes like, well, zucchini water.  But with the addition of lemons, it was much sweeter.  Zucchini-ade anyone?

Heirloom Zucchini seeds

Zucchini Smoothies

I’ve found the easiest way to use up all of the zucchini is in smoothies!  I fill the blender with the shredded zucchini as a base for the smoothie.  I’ve cut out yogurt and banana completely so this smoothie is lower in fat than our usual.  Once the zucchini is blended, I added in berries which completely dominate in flavor.  As an added bonus, I’ve been blending fresh mint from the garden as well.  When blended, like in the soup, zucchini takes on a creamy texture.

cocozelle zucchini harvest

Summer tastes so good!  What is your favorite zucchini recipe?

 

 

garden to table

Welcome to our new layout!  We’ve switched things up a bit at circadee.com to make more of a landing page for those looking for information on our shop.  If you’re here for the blog posts, you’ve found them!  We’ll continue to post regularly about our adventures, finds & projects.  That’s how this little business got started after all.

broccoli & edamame

Lately I’ve been spending all of my spare moments in the garden.  Early morning seems to be ideal.  Before the sun peaks but also when the mosquitoes are at bay.  It’s amazing how rapidly everything is growing.  The sporadic thunderstorms have certainly helped.  Alleviating the plants from the 90 degree temperatures and also alleviating me from the chore of watering.

oregano & lemon balm

Our harvest has already been plentiful with much more just around the corner.  At this point, the snap peas are about spent but I’m hoping to yield another harvest later this summer.  I’m still tucking bean seeds in vacant spots as I see fit.  They sprout almost immediately!

There have been a number of volunteer plants including two tomatoes, beans and a few squash – we’re not sure which species yet.  I’m certain that we can thank our compost pile for this surplus.  It has made for a few crowded beds since we weren’t expecting them but everything seems to be content.  The more the merrier!  I like to practice close planting to keep the weeds down anyway.

squash flower

We’re almost ready to harvest the kohlrabi and broccoli.  We’re seeing the first signs of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.  The potatoes are growing like wild fire.

This is actually our first year growing potatoes which we did in two plantings.  The first cycle in containers and the second in the ground.  The containers we’re using this year are actually terracotta chimney flue liners.  I’m digging the height they add and the border they create at the end of the garden.

chimney flue liners as raised garden containers

I seem to be favoring the herb garden most this year.  Last year, I was all about the flower bed but I think the herbs are stealing the show.  I expanded their footprint this year by taking three large galvanized tubs and creating a double-decker border so each herb has its own pot.

galvanized tub herb garden

The herbs have made a cameo in almost every dish.  There’s the obvious basil pesto but we’ve switched it up and added it to fish and fruit like shrimp and watermelon.

Basil Pesto

We can’t eat pasta everyday but when we do we’ve used oregano pesto with whatever veggies we can steam or saute.

oregano pesto

My tried and true summer carb is rosemary bread.  I follow a simple beer bread recipe and fold in loads of rosemary right from the garden.

Rosemary Bread

But what to with all of the that dill?  It makes a pretty, airy bouquet!  I’ve also mixed dill with chives to create a tasty little dip that complements homemade pita chips.

Dill & Chive Dip

What’s growing in your June garden?  I’m off to figure out how to use this morning’s marjoram harvest…

 

seed saving

seed saving-4678We had a prolific crop of bush beans this year.  It was probably the best yield in the garden, second to lettuce, with no pest issues.  We planted three rounds of bush beans in purple, green & yellow.  The purple is my favorite simply because they turn green when you cook them.  Right before your eyes!  We’ve been eating them fresh for a couple of months and I blanched and froze some for winter.

As we continue to harvest more, I’ve grouped the pods together in bunches to dry out.  Once the bean pods are all shriveled up, they’re ready for seed saving.  The pods open up pretty easily along the seam with a fingernail or scissors. And boom, there’s next year’s seeds so we can do it all over again.  A frugal little DIY…

seed saving

I have repeated these steps with snap peas as well so we have a little stash of peas to plant next spring.  This is a fun garden task to engage kids in.  The seeds are big so they’re hard to lose although I’ve had a few pop out of the pod and fly across the room!

These seeds are, in fact, the actual bean.  As in, the dry bean you buy from the store so we could always soak them and eat them this winter.  It is just another way to preserve the bean harvest.  I think we’ll plant a bigger crop next year so we can produce a decent amount of dry beans.  At this point, we have a few dozen – enough to plant but certainly not enough for a bean soup!

seed saving jar

Speaking of next year, The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2015 is now available at The West End Garage.  I took a sneak peek at the weather forecasts!  Let’s just say that we may have been spoiled by our mild summer weather this year.

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2015 now available at The West End Garage

a touch of nature

For the most part this season, I am decorating with elements inspired by nature.  Rather simply too.  I opted for a lighter, brighter color palette rather than the traditional warm, fall colors.  This palette can also be found at the shop and many of these elements are for sale there.  Typically I am decorating similarly at home as I am at West End Garage.  It keeps things simple!

natural fall mantel display with stacked wood

Cotton stems have been very popular and you can see why.  They’re so easy to work with.  Just plop them in a vase or in this case, a galvanized flower bucket.  They really can be on display from late summer/harvest season through New Year’s.  So many options!  They look good alone or with an accent flower.  I thought it was fun to pair them with twigs and vintage arrows for this vignette.  I used just 3 stems in each bucket to get this look.

cotton & arrows

The other accessories include feather balls, mini pumpkins and antler ornaments.  The antlers are small reproductions so they’re sort of guilt free for people who are into the antler trend but not a fan of decorating with animal relics.  They’re available at West End Garage too along with a quickly growing collection of ornaments.  Tis the season!

simply natural fall mantel

simply natural fall mantel

I got my wish of beautifully stacked wood after pining and pinning!  Our wood burning stove has been installed and is ready for winter.  I love how the seasoned wood accents this display and gives purpose to the mantel.  And the faux bois planter certainly doesn’t hurt.

fall mantel display with stacked wood

Peering past the mantel into the corner, you can see the Captain has something new over there and it’s not just the orange raffia pumpkin (also available at West End Garage).  He’s perched up on a vintage 6-drawer card catalog which I am super excited about.  I spotted this in an antique shop and spent a week dreaming about it for this space while fearing it would be gone by the time I got back.  It was there waiting for me and it is the ideal fit for this corner.  Plus the drawers are the perfect size to hold DVDs.

fall card catalog side table preview

I am deciding where to go from here with it, aesthetically.  It needs to be boosted up a few inches to true side table status.  Probably with casters since I seem to put casters on everything in my home.  Also, should I paint it?  That corner seems dark and the wood isn’t anything spectacular.  Linen seems like a viable option – maybe just the frame and not the drawers?  Please do weigh in!  Would you paint a vintage card catalog?

all of that kale

The garden is off to a great start this spring. We’ve had warm, sunny days and cool, misty nights. As a result, we’re harvesting bunches and bunches of lettuce plus a bunch of leafy kale every other day.

leafy kale

The more frequently it is harvested, the higher the yield.  I hate to let any of it go to waste because I know once the temperatures soar these greens will bolt leaving me wishing for just one more kale infused smoothie.  And I’ve tried but I’m just not into kale chips.

maximizing the harvest- kale-3701
In order to maximize the kale harvest and make it last well into summer I’ve come up with a plan.  After washing the bunch of kale and trimming the stems, I toss it into a pan and blanch it.  This only takes a few minutes.  I usually do it while making dinner.

maximizing the harvest- kale-3694

Then, with tongs, I place the wilted greens into an ice-cube tray and cover with water.

making kale cubes

Pop the tray in the freezer and we’ve got kale cubes.  The cubes are ready to chill any smoothie or to toss into any soup, stir fry or side dish.  I put the excess cubes in a freezer bag to make room for more.  There’s another harvest right behind this one!

Maximizing the Harvest - kale cubes

I recently read an interesting article about the benefits of using cooked kale vs. raw kale in smoothies.  What do you think?  What is your preference?

mediterranean veggie burgers

Guys, I’m always on a quest for interesting veggie and bean burgers.  I came up with a little combination for a Mediterranean inspired burger last week.

Mediterranean Veggie Burger

Making any veggie burger can be a bit time-consuming with all of the chopping and food processing so I finally got smart a doubled up my recipe this time so we’d get twice as many.  For us, that means 2 dinners and 2 lunches instead of just one of each.  Or 8 burgers.

And since I am in post-Clover Market hangover mode today, that means I can just pull out the 2nd half of these burgers and fire them up tonight with minimal prep.  Amen to that.

Mediterranean Bean Burger

So here’s what’s in my (double) Mediterranean veggie burger.  I chopped, ground and combined the following ingredients:

  • 2 cans of kidney beans
  • 1 can of olives
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 large tomato (draining the juice)
  • 1-2 stalks of scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt, pepper, oregano

*We were out of fresh peppers or I definitely would have added one however olives are definitely the key to making this veggie burger full of Mediterranean inspired flavor.  I may just add more next time!

For a binder, I used one slice of bread plus a handful of oats and 1 egg.  I usually use 2 of the 3 mentioned binding agents but I felt wild so I threw all 3 into the mix this time.  It is just preference.

Mediterranean Veggie Burger

I pan cooked these for about 8-10 minutes on each side and then served them up on ciabbatta rolls with avocado & lettuce.  Yum!

What is your favorite veggie burger combo?  What should I try next?

pumpkin-spiration

Friends, it’s time!  Fall is officially here.  Yay!  I am ready to do some pumpkin picking and jack-o-lantern carving!  And I’m waiting for the leaves to change colors right before my eyes!  Yahoo!  How about you?

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon visiting several fab antique shops.  The trip to Western MD/Northern VA was somewhat spontaneous however I’ve long anticipated stepping foot in these shops…Chartreuse & Co., Sweet Clover and The Old Lucketts Store.  Sometimes you just need a good ol’ fashioned road trip!  My excursion has definitely given me the inspiration and kick in the pants I needed.

chartreuse & co.

I love this simple, spooky vignette at Lucketts…I might have to put something similar together.

lucketts

I also had the pleasure of meeting Cassie at Sweet Clover.  What a doll!  I’ve been following her blog for years and feel like I know her life story so it was fun to meet her in person.  Plus, she and her partners curated a great barn sale full of vintage goodness.  Yes, I found some new treasures!  Bonus, Cassie schooled me on how to take a decent selfie…

sweet clover

Sometimes some new scenery is just the right dose of inspiration!  I’m headed to a milk paint workshop for the next two days.  I’m sure even more inspiration will strike.  Can’t wait to share.

With that said, let me share a few pumpkin projects today that may inspire you…

Stocking Pumpkin: Even easier than carving a pumpkin – just pop it into a fishnet or graphic stocking for instant spooktackular impact.

IMG_2417

Safety in Numbers: There’s something so simply appealing about an abundance of mini pumpkins or gourds.  It looks great with reindeer moss, pinecones, acorns and other natural elements too.  Start filling a dough bowl or harvest basket!

mini pumpkins in abundance

Pumpkin Tea Lights: Easy!  Just carve out the top and pop a tea light candle in.

pumpkin tea light

Vomiting Pumpkin Salsa: So gross but so good!  Seriously, this carved pumpkin face makes such a conversation piece at a Halloween party.

jack-o-lantern salsa

If you missed it, check out my farmers market roundup for more simple, fall decor!  What’s inspiring you this fall?

farmers market roundup

I’m usually that girl who plants mums in August and has pumpkins out for Labor Day.  This year, however, I have been reluctant to say goodbye to summer.  I’m simply not going to do it ’til summer is really over.  At the end of September.

But I can’t deny the crisp air and winding down humidity so I have been thinking about switching out my seasonal decor and introducing some late summer favorites.  I love this time of year at the farmer’s market.  The colors, textures and pickins’ are in abundance.  Not only do I want to eat the season’s harvest but I want to decorate with it!

fall bistro table

Here are a few decorating ideas that will bring the changing season in without breaking your budget.  If you’re lucky, you might already have these crops growing in your own backyard garden.  If not, you know where to go!

Indian Corn Wreath:  Husks of Indian corn aren’t just for the lamp-post.  Pick up clusters of mini Indian corn which show a variety of colors.  Attach them to a wire form and you have yourself a new wreath plus a squirrel’s feast.  These are best hung between a storm door and front door or you won’t have anything left in a matter of hours!

mini Indian corn fall harvest wreath

Hot Pepper Wreath:  Pick up some hot peppers next time you’re at the market.  If you can find a surplus of them, you’ll get a better deal.  Wire them up to wreath form for new door decor.

hot pepper wreath

Farmers Market Vignette:  This vignette is nothing more than colorful, seasonal squashes and a pumpkin mixed with locally grown flowers that are drying out.  Arrange them amongst some other items that are already on hand like a rusty old scale and homemade pumpkin for instant impact!  When you’re not sure about what’s for dinner, slice open that squash and steam it.

fall vignette

Mumkin:  There is always the classic pumpkin planter stand by.  Grab a large pumpkin and 6 inch mum at the market.  Carve and hollow the pumpkin.  Plant the mum, pot and all, directly into the pumpkin planter.

Mumkin

Seed Packet Art:  If you can’t bring the freshness of the harvest inside, you can always create your own original seed packet art.  I duplicated a few vintage seed graphics last fall with paint and reclaimed wood.

vintage sunflower seed pack reproduction sign

beet stuffed peppers

I’m back with another food post, friends.

I’m talking about beetroots today.  They are said to be a natural anti-inflammatory vegetable which is what we are after in our house.  But what can be done differently with beets?  Well, this is one of my new faves that I like to think I made up because I’ve never heard of a Beet Stuffed Pepper before. About a week ago I posted a prep picture of this entree on instagram and got a lot of inquisitive likes.

Beet Stuffed Pepper

So I’m sharing the deets but hold onto your seats because there’s really only one thing you need to know about making this deliciously, filling vegetarian dish.

Are you ready for it?

The secret to Beet Stuffed Peppers is to follow your favorite traditional stuffed pepper recipe and then subtract the ground beef and add ground beets.

That’s it. Earth shattering, I know.  It kind of rhymes too: Subtract the ground beef and add ground beets.

Here’s exactly what I did to make this simple yet tasty dinner.

  • Take 3 average size beets, wash and peel the epidermis.  Grind the beets in the food processor.  Next, mix seasoned bread crumbs into the ground beets.  I used about a 50/50 ratio of bread crumbs to beets.  The bread crumbs absorb the moisture that the beets cook off.
  • Wash and core 2 green peppers.  A tip I learned from a friend when baking stuffed peppers is to briefly cook the peppers in boiling water to soften them.  This way they are more pliable and do not tear when you stuff them.
  • Next, you guessed it, stuff the peppers with the beet mix.  I sprinkled fresh shredded parmesan cheese to the top along with more bread crumbs.  Also, a dollop of raw honey (my favorite sweetener) on top complements the beet flavor very well.  The honey will cook into the stuffed pepper.
  • Bake at 325 for about 50 minutes and enjoy!

Beet Stuffed Pepper

These stuffed peppers are so filling that I couldn’t even finish mine!  Let me know if you give it a try.  And again, try this with your own stuffed pepper recipe and just substitute the beef for beets.

P.S.  Doesn’t the color remind you of red velvet cake?