Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zucchini: A Few New Takes

This time of year, gardeners everywhere are trying to find ways to put their abundance of zucchini to good use. Once again, my in-laws are sharing from the bounty of their garden and I couldn't be happier.

We have made our share of zucchini bread and eaten our fill of grilled zucchini. I was ready to try something new. Here's what I found:

Lemon Zucchini Cookies (recipe follows)

This is a recipe from a family cookbook. They remind me a little of pecan sandies, of course with a lemon flavor. They are yummy and light tasting-a great summer cookie. These would be great for a ladies' tea or a shower.

Zucchini Tots

I found these little gems on Pinterest and they make a great zucchini side dish. I doubled the recipe, but didn't end up with as many as the recipe said-maybe my mini muffin pan is larger than others. Crispy and flavorful-you'd never guess they had zucchini in them.

Not Your Mother's Zucchini Bread ( recipe follows)

This recipe is from my mom's cousin. It won the best bread category of the Linn County (Oregon) Master Gardeners' Great Zucchini Challenge. It is a savory zucchini bread, similar to making a homemade beer bread. It has pepper jack cheese and diced green chillies so it has a slight kick to it. It was the perfect companion alongside Quinoa Stuffed Peppers.

If you've got a great zucchini recipe, I'd love to hear it. I've got plenty more zucchini that needs to be used.

Lemon Zucchini Cookies
1 C. grated unpeeled zucchini
2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 C. chopped nuts (I used pecans)
3/4 C. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. grated fresh lemon rind
3/4 C. butter or margarine

Lemon Frosting
1/3 C. powdered sugar
2-3 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Sift flour together with salt and baking powder. In another bowl cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and lemon peel. Mix in flour until dough is smooth, then add zucchini and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Brown only lightly. While hot, drizzle with frosting. Makes 6-7 dozen.

(Recipe note: When I made them, I only ended up with about 4 dozen and they were still small cookies. Also, mine were lightly browned in only 12 minutes, so keep an eye on your first batch.)

Not Your Mother's Zucchini Bread
3 C. self rising flour
3 T. sugar
3/4 C. shredded pepper jack cheese
3/4 C. shredded zucchini
1 (4-oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (12-oz) beer, at room temperature

Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased bread pan. Bake 75 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes one large loaf.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Writing on the Wall

Two years ago, I bought this quote to put up in the entry of our new house. I had to wait for the area to be painted and now have finally gotten it put up.

You can find these vinyl quotes and designs just about everywhere nowadays. You can purchase from companies specializing in them like Uppercase Living or Wall Words, or you find them at many of your local craft, home, or discount stores. I found this one at Hobby Lobby. It's by the company "Once Upon a Wall". Since this is the only one I've ever worked with, I don't know if it's any better or worse than others, but it worked for me.

To apply it, I did some measuring and marking with painter's tape. I marked the center first and then created a frame to help me with the placement of it.

Then, I followed the manufacturer's directions, applying the lettering with a little plastic card that came in the kit.

An "in progress shot"-The sun made it around by the time I started applying it.
 Once I had gone over the whole quote, I slowly and carefully pulled off the backing paper and pressed it all a little more with my hand. If I decide to take it down, I simply heat it with a blow dryer and peel it off.

This was an easy way to send a message to those entering our house without having to pound a nail. I just may have to add a few more around the house.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chicago Botanic Garden

One of the things we wanted to do before John went back to work was visit The Chicago Botanic Garden. It had been a few years since we had gone and the forecast for Friday was for beautiful weather.

The gardens never disappoint. Depending on what time of year you go, there's always something different in bloom. Our family favorite is the waterfall garden.

There's something so peaceful about the sound of the water. It's also where John proposed to me nearly seven years ago.

August 27, 2005
We took a family picture on the same bench near the top of the waterfall.

August 17, 2012
The kids enjoyed the fountains and being outside in nature. Levi was also interested in all the fruits and vegetables that were growing there.

For the first time Levi and I visited the Model Railroad Garden. This garden is filled with miniature replicas of famous places across the U.S. Different kinds of model trains run through the miniature landscaped scenes. It's a treat for any train lover. They even had Thomas and some of his friends there.

The Space Needle

A day spent at the Botanic Gardens always leaves me feeling relaxed. It was the perfect way to draw an end to our family's summer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Under the Big Top

Tonight we headed to the circus for the first time as a family, along with John's parents and sister's family. Neither of the our kids had ever been and John and I hadn't been for many years.

Lillian will probably hate this picture someday-not her best shot.
While the Piccadilly Circus is definitely not one of the big name circuses, it gave the kids some excitement, entertainment, and a taste of the circus. Please forgive the poor quality of some of the pictures. I can only do so much with my little camera in a dark tent.

The tightrope act

My favorite-the fire juggler

Griffin and Levi-thoroughly entertained

The "racing" camels

Balancing acrobatic act

John and Lillian-both mesmerized by the show

Levi's favorite-the elephants

Levi with the clown after the show

Monday, August 13, 2012

What I've Been Up To

It's been a fun and busy few weeks at our house. I haven't gotten to post anything in a while so I have quite the backlog. Instead of separate posts I'm giving it to you all at once. So settle in--this could take a while, but in the end you'll be caught up on what's been happening in my happy life.

One of the things on our summer "Sand Pail List" was an outdoor concert. We checked it off with our first trip to Ravinia. John, Levi, and I headed there while Lill stayed home with Grandma Sue and Papa. We packed a picnic supper, some toys and games, our chairs and a blanket.

The time spent waiting was just as fun as the actual concert. Levi was so excited to see and hear "The Planets." As usual, he made friends with our lawn neighbors, even sharing his bumble bee chair. He gave the concert a thumbs up before he fell asleep on the blanket. The symphony was a very beautiful one and the accompanying video was very cool.

Back at home I was busy doing everyday things: playing with kids, grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, etc. I've been freezing tomatoes in batches as they ripen.

The cherry tomatoes usually get eaten and most of the large tomatoes are diced, drained a little, and frozen in 2 C. portions for use in soups or any recipe that calls for diced tomatoes.

My mom and her friend, Carmen came for a long weekend. We started out by celebrating my mom's and John's mom's birthdays with a day at the beach.

We splashed, swam, fished, caught frogs,

went on rides in the fishing boat,

played in the sand, grilled lunch, and ended our celebration with Chocolate Cluster-Peanut Butter Cake. Yum!

The rest of the weekend us ladies spent a day at the Kane County Flea Market and one in downtown Chicago. Thanks to John for keeping the kids both days. After taking the train downtown, we had lunch at the top of the John Hancock Building and took an architectural boat tour. Both are definite must-dos for anyone visiting Chicago.

Once we said good-bye to my mom and Carmen, we gathered our things for a camping trip with some of our neighbors. We camped at Indian Trails Campground in Pardeeville, WI.

It was a nice campground with plenty for all the kids to do.

Our first full day there was a little wet and cool, but it dried out eventually. Most of the group headed for a canoe/kayak ride down the Fox River.

While they were gone I started my first campfire with Levi's help. That's usually John's department, but I managed to get it going.

There was plenty of fishing and of course, fun around the campfire.

Now we're back home and have more adventures planned for our last week together. John heads back to school next week and we'll all be getting into a new routine then. Hopefully I will be able to make it to my computer more regularly then. So there you have it--a recap of what's been keeping me busy these last few weeks. I hope you've been having lots of fun as well.