The Zucchini is in!!

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First zucchini of the year was harvested!  Starting off in my greenhouse this spring, I’ve got a lovely light green fruit for tonight’s dinner.  Recommended by a colleague, I bought the seeds from Seeds of Italy, choosing an organic variety from the Genoa section of Italy.  It sliced so easily, with very little seeds (even though I let it get a little too big).

Compliments of  a recent Facebook posting, I thought I’d try out the Zucchini Parmesan Crisps:

  • Zuchini, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt (a pinch or so)
  • Pepper (sprinkled for flavor)

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Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

Dip the slices of zucchini into the olive oil (or paint on with a brush) and then dip each slice into the crumb mixture.

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Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, until crispy.

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I paired them with a Panko-coated cod, seasoned with organic garlic salt and baked with a touch of organic butter.

Absolutely delicious!

Summer Vacation

Did a bit of work in the yard today and gotta say I was totally in my zen.  Breaking a sweat, covered in dirt, bugs crawling on me….good stuff.  Except for the chipmunk incident (see previous post) there really is nothing like working in my tiny little yard and enjoying the view.

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Amazing how cucumbers know to grow up on the fence left for them…

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Finally, tiny beans growing on my tiny green bean plants…

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Zucchini is massive…and we’ve got fruits!

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Black-eyed Susans ready to bloom…

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Broccoli…better late than never!

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The first blossom on the morning glory vine…

(did have a chat with one of the chickens about NOT pecking at the bloom!)

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My girls….

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and my vines.

I need this summer vacation.  Aside from getting my master’s project complete, I might finally learn how to relax.

Happy Summer!!

An Open Letter to the Chipmunk

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Dear Chipmunk,

You may have won the battle for the last two nights, but the war is by no means over.  The digging in the strawberry planter…well the holes were small and you haven’t done any more since.  And I get that the new experimental mosquito trap was just an open invitation for you to knock it over….my bad for not hanging it up.  But the tiki torches?!  Seriously, what makes you want to dig at them and knock them over?  I’ve been more than accommodating when you took residence in the drywell…and inside the garage siding….and probably under the deck.  I’m sure you realize by now that the dog is more than adept at catching things…lord knows she has enough practice when she visits her grandparents.  But have I sent her out after you?? No.  And did I let her chase you when you were CLEARLY in her path of destruction and could have been just a memory??  No.

Here’s what I propose….

You leave ALONE my plantings, veggies, tiki torches, and whatever else I spend a LOT of time caring for.  In return, I leave you alone.  Rumor has it you aren’t fond of garlic…and hot peppers.  You may find a scent around the tiki torches when they are once again erected where I want them.  I’m sure it won’t take much to sprinkle some solution into your favorite hiding places.

I’m all for co-existence with nature, but I have my boundaries…

Regards,

The Home Owner

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Strawberry Jam

My son, the Big Y employee.  I dropped him off at work last week and he asked if I was going to pick up any strawberries, since they were “buy one, get two free”.  He wasn’t too thrilled when I responded that I planned on picking up strawberries at the local grower since they were in season.  Hey, local is local…and much sweeter.  Last I checked, the Driscoll strawberries stocked at Big Y were still coming out of California.  The taste difference alone is worth the $6/quart.

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This past weekend, the BF and I stopped at Bishop’s Orchards on our way to our latest vineyard pit stop and picked up 3 quarts (on sale 3/$15).  Not too long ago, I picked up new canning equipment from Amazon (dissolvable  labels, 5-piece canning kit, and a new canner).

I browsed the web for a recipe that looked good and went with Allrecipes Low sugar/no sugar strawberry jam.  It was basically the same recipe from inside the label of the Ball’s pectin jar, just more specific to strawberries.  I doubled mine to make 4 half-pints of jam:

Strawberry Jam

2 2/3 cups of crushed strawberries (wash, remove stems, and crush with potato masher or fork)

2/3 cup unsweetened apple juice

3 Tablespoons Ball RealFruit low or no-sugar needed pectin

1 cup of sugar

Start canning with sterilizing the jars, lids, and rims in a large pot of water over a gentle boil.

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While they’re slowly boiling, mix the strawberries and juice together in a sauce pot over high heat.

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Slowly add in pectin and bring to a boil.

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Add sugar and return to a boil, stirring constantly for one minute.

Remove from heat and ladle the mixture into the sterilized jars.  I LOVE the magnetic lid remover….didn’t even have to touch with my hands!  And yes, I did dip the funnel into the hot water before using….

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Once filled, secure the lids and rims on the jars (finger tight), place them in a canner with enough water to cover the jars an inch or so above the lids, and bring them to a boil.

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Process them for 10 minutes, before turning off the heat and letting the jars sit for 5 minutes or so.  The kitchen tongs in the canning kit made removing the jars from the hot water super easy.  Let them sit until cooled before labeling.  Allow to “set” for 24 hours, checking to see if the lids sealed correctly (shouldn’t flex when touched)

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Simple and easy!  Enjoy!

And the Journey on the Wine Trail continues…..

So we decided to follow the Connecticut Wine Trail this year, after the good time we had at Gouveia Vineyards.  This time we headed up to Chamard Vineyards in Clinton to have our passports stamped and taste some of their local vintages.

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Reading up on the vineyard before heading out, I found interesting that the vineyard was owned by a researcher with an interest in genetics, particularly sequencing of the genome.  Originally starting as a 5 acre vineyard it currently has 20 acres of vines growing.

Just like Gouveia, we drove by rows of grape vines on our way up to the stone house where we samples five different wines from their locally made selections.  Once parked, the distance grape vines overlooking the water fountain caught my eye.  Their website made mention of weddings hosted there and I could see the allure of a vineyard wedding.

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Inside, I found the stone house very elegant and the staff very pleasant and accommodating.  We sampled our five wine selections as well as a Sangria that the bartender just brewed before purchasing our favorite wine for our growing collection.  The Sangria left me wanting more, so needless to say we stopped on the way home to pick up a few ingredients and made a quick batch to enjoy outside on the deck.

While I was disappointed when I read the sign stating “no outside food beyond this point”, I did find Chamard to be a beautiful place to visit with an elegant vibe for more adult oriented get-togethers.

A Visit to the Vineyard

We all have that perpetual “bucket list” of things we want to see, do, or be before we give the bucket a final kick.  A visit to Italy has been on mine for a long time.  It doesn’t help that I’ve watched Under the Tuscan Sun numerous times (last time was just a few weeks back).  The ever eternal romantic in me wants to see the Amalfi Coast, tour the vineyards, stroll the market places, track down my roots and see where it all began.  With my Master’s Degree just about completed, maybe I can start thinking about that trip finally.  For now, I’ll settle for the ambiance of local get-away’s that until this past weekend have never seen.

For a taste of Europe, who knew that 20 minutes away were these fabulous vineyards with wine tastings, fields of grapes, and a cozy place to relax with friends and food.  Yes, I knew we had vineyards in Connecticut but haven’t been….until now.  We took a trip to Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford with some friends to see what I’ve been missing.

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The long driveway up to the Stone House had me in awe.  The Stone House itself was just beautiful with it’s exterior masonry finish and wood beams inside.  We took a tour of the vineyard and cellars with the owner Joe where we learned about the different grapes planted and used for making the delicious wines offered.  The cellar housed the stainless steel vats and barrels used for the fermentation and storage of the grape juice on its journey to being wine.

We learned interesting tidbits like the delicate cycle of temperatures used while the grapes fermented or the fact that authentic cork from the cork tree is not harvest-able until the trees are well past 25 years old.  Amazing that in just an hour a handful of people can fill a 1000 bottles of wine at the winery.

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The wine tasting itself was fun to say the least.  For $7, we each got to sample five different blends of wines from white to red.  Needless to say, the lightweight in me was feeling pretty good by the time I sampled the final wine.  Doesn’t help that I did this on an empty stomach!  We chose a bottle of wine to enjoy with our “picnic basket” dinner and wandered outside to find a table.

It was so peaceful overlooking the fields as we ate I can only wonder why I hadn’t done this sooner.  We ended our meal with locally grown strawberries covered in chocolate.

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With the sun setting over the vineyards, good food, wine, and company, this is a place to put on the must-visit list.  With a 2013 CT Wine Trail passport stamped at  just 16 of the 32 Connecticut vineyards, you could be eligible for prizes that include a trip to Spain.

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