As much as I love (and live for) the summer, resisting its end as though it would never come again, I also love the comfort and ‘home-liness’ of the autumn. When I came home from work today, those fall-ish things that make my heart happy seemed to be gathered in joyful clusters everywhere I looked.
As I was pulling the remnants of the tomato and zucchini plants, I was continually distracted by the deeper fall colors in the garden–a vibrant burst of jewel tones and tapestry-like textures.
Walking through the kitchen, I loved seeing the cookbooks strewn about in preparation for fall meal-planning. Looking at the burnished warmth of the copper pans hanging; the terra-cotta orange saucepans stacked and at-the-ready; a sink-full of striped Delicata squash scrubbed clean and ready to be roasted; those things erased the cares of the workday and filled me with contentment.
I thought of the Summer, with her sparkle of Rosé shared with friends on the patio, in friendly competition with the darting hummingbirds. The effervescence of Prosecco–a perfect match to the intensity that is the gardening season, pairing beautifully with the tiny lights strung over the patio.
But with Autumn comes more peaceful pursuits, and a glass of garnet-red Zinfandel or Syrah is companion to knitting in front of a fire. Rich, hot, cocoa and a delicious novel on a rainy afternoon is a sweet and restorative way to counter the gloom that can overtake even the most optimistic of us. A meal of steaming soup and fresh, warm, bread can bring calm and order to the most chaotic of workdays (or election years).
Whatever season you are in at the moment, I wish you joy and contentment, and hope that you are able to find a peacefulness of your own. I know it’s been a long time, but thank you so much for visiting.
I am painfully aware that there is much that is wrong with the world. Frustrated with things I cannot change, I’ve dissolved into tears more than once this week at our scarcity of compassion for one another and toward the creatures we share the planet with. Unfortunately, anyone old enough to be in kindergarten (and sadly, many even younger) has some grasp on the reality that life is not fair, good people suffer, tragedy is all around, and those who thrive on negativity threaten to suffocate us in a cloud of division and fear.
However, for now I’ve chosen to see the good, and to find delight and contentment in the simple portions of my day.
I’ve witnessed this morning’s fiery sunrise while walking with a friend.
I’ve enjoyed a lengthy telephone chat with my daughter in California–talking about nothing of any real importance, other than what we should be cooking for Thanksgiving.
I spent the early part of the day baking, concentrating on the sensory pleasures of mixing sugar into soft butter, melting chocolate, and sifting flour.
There is laundry hanging on the line, drying gently in the early autumn sun, while the kitchen staff takes a break from their labors.
My husband will come home from work tonight exhausted and hungry, but that is something I can change–with a crisp-skinned roasted chicken, surrounded by sweet delicata squash and toasty, parmesan-crusted chunks of cauliflower.
There have been generous gifts from friends this week of gorgeous green peppers, pale blue eggs, speckly skinned pears, and red wine, reminding me that I am cared for and loved.
Summer is over, but I’m okay with that because now autumn is here. Soon enough it will be cold and raining, but right now the sunlight is soft and golden, the house is quiet, and there is a peaceful quality to the day that invites me to take a moment and revel in it.
Today is a good day, and there is much to be thankful for.
Thank you my friends, for dropping by to visit. I hope there is goodness in your day too~
It’s official … the ennui of August has an undeniable hold on me. Though we returned from vacation a week ago, my head is still in relax-eat-travel mode.
Yesterday I fought bravely, and brought in the pumpkins,
made the first harvest of basil,
took cuttings of the olives, cleaned up weary perennial beds, and even made multiple batches of pesto and tomato sauce for the freezer. (Here’s my favorite pesto recipe, if you’re so inclined.)
I’ve tried sooo hard to be productive in the garden today, but really all I want to do is curl up with my current read, “Mona Lisa; A Life Discovered”. (By the way, I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves art, Italy, or Italian history, and if you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends .) Plus, I keep thinking about chocolate.
I top-dressed the newly cut back basil with a hefty helping of sheep ‘fertilizer’, and instead of thinking about Pizza Margherita or Caprese anything (or for that matter,even sheep poo!), I was thinking about chocolate.
I set some water out under the hazelnut tree for the ring-neck doves, and instead of thinking about not letting the blue jays steal the whole tree full of frilly-edged nuts, I started thinking about hazelnuts and chocolate.
I went to the garden shed (soon to be my new greenhouse–hurrah!) with the thought of starting some lettuce and arugula, and maybe even some poppy and sweet-pea seeds, but something distracted me and the next thing I knew, I was staring at Italian Prune tree, day-dreaming about some kind of dense, moist, prune and chocolate studded cake.
I tried to weed a bit, but reading my book and eating something chocolate sounded so much better.
It’s time to admit defeat–I know when I’ve been bested.
Dark Chocolate Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of espresso powder (optional)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
(you could add 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts or hazelnuts too, if the bluejays leave you any)
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees
Combine the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda ina small bowl, and set to the side.
In a large bowl ( I use a stand mixer) cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and espresso powder until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low speed until just blended.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Place rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are just set. They should still appear soft and moist. Use care to not over-bake.
Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
And now I’m going to grab the cookie
tray plate, pour a glass of cold milk, get my book, and totally surrender to the enjoyment of these last days of summer!
Thanks so much for visiting, and as always, Enjoy!
When it comes to cooking and meal-planning, everyone has those moments when ambition refuses to take root.
Even me. (Although to be truthful, usually lack of ambition strikes me in the morning, when it’s time to go for a run or work out. Oh, and house-keeping … now there’s another place where the well of inspiration usually runs dry.)
But usually, I am plagued with just the opposite—there is soooo much around me to draw ideas from that I can easily overwhelm myself with all of my options!
Cookbooks are a constant source of inspiration, and I own a staggering number of them, as I have already confessed to in an earlier post.
Magazines are a much-loved source of information and recipes, and then there is Pinterest! Oh-my-goodness don’t EVEN get me started on that one—a never-ending parade of glossy photos filled with velvety, butter-cream covered cakes, a kaleidoscope of fruits and veggies, platters of gorgeous pasta—well, you get the idea!
Sometimes I walk in the garden and see all of that ‘ripe-ness’ around me, and I want to take it straight to the kitchen and turn it into something wonderful to eat.
Other times, I’m having a fabulous meal in a restaurant (hello, yesterday’s lunch at Stone Cliff Inn, with your beautiful deck over-looking the river and your wine-list that could double as bed-time reading—I’m talkin’ to you!) and it makes me want to run home and put on an apron!
So today, I can no longer ignore the inspiration screaming at me from all sides, and the need to create something in the kitchen–preferably something with zucchini
since that is currently what’s at high-tide in my garden. I had a brief moment of thinking about bread, or cake, but then quickly realized that a loaf of warm, spicy, zucchini bread would add more distance to tomorrow’s run—something I’m already procrastinating about. Both the husband and I are defenseless when it comes to any kind of quick bread, so I thought something savory and useful for dinner would be a better plan.
I’ve been making this zucchini gratin lately, and have been wanting to re-imagine it with a crust (I could channel my inner-Italian and call it a zucchine crostata). Quiche was sounding good too. But while I was
perusing a new cookbook, ahem, as I was whiling away a little time in the garden with a cappuccino and a book, inspiration struck!
Okay, so it was yet another new cookbook. New to me, anyway. It was actually an old Donna Hay book that I picked up at a thrift-store, and when I saw the picture of a very rustic looking vegetable tart, I went straight to the kitchen—not that I wouldn’t have ended up there anyway, because the offspring are headed home tomorrow, and that means a plate of Mary’s Lemon Squares is expected on the counter when they arrive.
We had it for dinner with a small green salad and a nice, crisp, Pinot Grigio—definitely nothing fancy, but certainly the stuff that memories of summer dinners on the patio are made of!
The recipe is very simple (and something a little different in the “What was I thinking when I planted all this zucchini?” category of your recipe file), but there are a few steps involved that may make it more suitable for a weekend meal when you have a little more time to spend cooking. Why don’t you make it and leave me a comment on your thoughts. Or, comment and tell me your favorite way to eat summer squash—there’s an awful lot of zucchini season still to go!
I hope that you’re making the most of this gorgeous sunshine! Have a beautiful weekend, and I promise the next recipe I share won’t have zucchini in it! I’ve been hearing a lot of chocolate rumblings in the distance as of late …
Thanks for stopping by~
Rustic Zucchini Tart
Cobbled together with inspiration from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 1 and Viewfrommykitchenwindow
Makes 1 10” Tart
2 cups of all purpose flour
5 ounces (about 10 TB) butter
2-3 TB ice water
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp kosher salt
(for the filling)
2 pounds zucchini, cut in half length-wise*
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 or 2 large-ish cloves of garlic, still in their husks
salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese (set aside)
¼ cup grated parmesan (set aside)
1 TB fresh basil, coarsely chopped (set aside)
Preheat oven to 375 F. I did this step on my Traeger, because I wanted a smokey flavor to my vegetables)
Generously oil a baking sheet with olive oil.
Place the prepared vegetables on the sheet, drizzle with more olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are golden.
Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature. Remove the garlic, squeezing the flesh from the husks and set aside.
When they’re cooled down, toss the veggies with the cheeses and fresh basil.
While the veggies are in the oven, make the pastry.
Pulse the flour, butter, dried basil, and salt in a food processor until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
With the blade running, add the water 1 TB at a time, until the contents come together in a smooth dough.
Knead the dough oh-so-briefly, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
When the dough is ready, roll it into a round on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness, and then place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Spread the roasted garlic across the top of the pastry dough.
Place the vegetables in the center, mounding and spreading them out evenly but leaving about 2 1/2” margin of dough all the way around.
Fold and pinch the edges of the dough to make a raised border.
Chill for 20 minutes.
When chilled, place the tart in a pre-heated 350F oven.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. This tart is wonderful served warm, at room temperature, or cold.
*I think cherry tomatoes would be wonderful in this too, but since I ate them on my way in from the garden, I’ll have to wait until the next time I make this to find out.
I realize National Zucchini Day is a few weeks off, but since this is happening for dinner tonight, I thought I’d re-post. It’s such a great recipe–either as a main dish or a side. We’ll be having it with pork chops grilled with fresh sage, a little green salad and a lovely 2010 Pinot Noir from Alexeli Vineyard. I love summer food, don’t you ?
Enjoy the day,
I don’t know if it was the pot of French-Press I drank after lunch, or the sudden realization that there was nothing on the immediate horizon in terms of dinner. I suppose it could have been subliminal, brought on by last night’s bedtime reading of the gorgeous cookbook, “Harvest to Heat”, with pictures that jumped off of the page and right into my mouth. For whatever reason, I was inspired to get up cook! I mean, really cook…invent something, fire-up-the-oven, lots of pots, pans, and utensils sort of cooking.
And while mindlessly trolling around my face-book feed (blame that darn pot of French-Press again), I was made aware that today is—get ready for it—NATIONAL ZUCCHINI DAY!! Who knew?!
So, since I really didn’t have any concrete dinner plans, and I really didn’t want to go to the store, I went out to the garden instead. Not that the…
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With varying degrees of patience, I wait, and wait, and wait for Summer to arrive. And just when I think I won’t last another moment, she’s here in the garden–fragrant with honeysuckle, arrayed in bright lilies, with her daily invitation to visit early and linger late.
Welcome Summer ! I’m so glad you’re here!
Thank you so much for coming to see me. Tell me, what’s happening in your garden today?
Once again, it seems as though I’ve fallen behind in just about every area of my life. Well, perhaps not the laundry, but that would be the only thing.
There are seeds still to be planted in the garden, and weeds still to remove. There is no surface in our home that would pass a ‘white-glove’ test, or even a ‘brown-glove’ test! The dust layer has gotten thick enough to plow, and until yesterday, there was hardly anything to eat in the house. The pantry was so bare it could have become a spare room, as grocery-shopping had been more of a ‘fly-over’ on my way home from work. Actually, it was getting to be sort of a game to see if I could put together a decent meal without even going to the store.
The office work has been stacking up (I’m currently working out of piles instead of files) and cooking, baking, writing and taking pictures for my little blog have not even made the ‘to-do’ list. Nary a cake nor cookie has emerged from this kitchen, except for this sweet little ‘cupcake dress’. This was for a bridal shower for my friend Jennifer’s daughter. And because Jennifer is not a total flake with a camera (ahem … that would be me), there is actually a picture of it, which she has been gracious enough to share with me so that I can share it with you. Thanks Jennifer!
There has been time away for another bridal shower and wedding–a lot of time really, since it was our daughter Mary’s wedding–and then there’s that whole ‘work-for-a-living’ thing. Add in a couple of priority projects (more fencing for the sheep, completion of the garden fence, and demolition of my disintegrating greenhouse) and everything else just skidded to a halt.
(And if I’m being totally transparent, there was–and still is–basketball. First there was March Madness, then the NBA play-offs, and now the finals. Basketball is important stuff here people, really! In fact, I’m thinking about learning to love the WNBA this summer, because those women are crazy-good athletes!)
But today is a slower sort of day. Work is calming down for the summer, and it is raining. I did some combat shopping yesterday (five hours and five stores worth with another hour of putting it all away), so today my friends, is a good day to get caught up with some baking and writing–and maybe even a few photos! Today is a Granola and Oatmeal Cookie kind of day. Actually, it was bill paying day too, but after excavating through the piles on my desk, they’re all done for the month. Now I can do something fun, like baking.
I’m taking today to restock a few things for the week–vinaigrette for the nightly salad, cookies for the husband’s lunchbox, and Granola just because.
Just because I love it.
Because it’s the perfect added little crunch to a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt. Because it’s a handy and portable afternoon snack (just add a few more nuts and some dried fruit–or chocolate chips).
Because the tiniest ramekin full of granola with a little milk poured over is a comforting and satisfying bed-time snack.
I could go on, but really, home-made granola tastes better and is cheaper and more nutritious than anything you can buy in the store–chocolate chips not withstanding. There are an infinite number of variations of ingredients, so you can change things around to suit your tastes and needs.
I’ve been trying out some different granola recipes lately, but my current favorite is a riff on this one from Julie at Lovely Little Kitchen . I’m really liking hers at the moment because of the short baking time, the ground nuts, and the lovely flavor that using coconut oil adds. (Her blog is pretty great too–I love reading her even if I’m not trying out her recipes!) You can find her original recipe here or try my version, which is a little less sweet (my preference for most things not dessert).
Cookies and Granola … not such a terrible way to spend a rainy day after all !
I hope today has found you with a bit of something to enjoy~
Thanks for reading, and please comment if you think this is something you might like to try, or even if you have no intention of trying it. Maybe you HATE granola! (Hopefully you love cupcakes…) Your comments are what make this whole bloggy thing work!
Quick Coconut~Almond Granola
(adapted from a recipe by Lovely Little Kitchen)
1 cup almonds, divided in half
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar (or 1/3 cup for sweeter granola; using the lesser amount of sugar will also result in a slightly less crunchy texture)
1/3 cup honey ( rice or maple syrup will work too)
3 Tblsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the almonds until they are very finely chopped.
- Coarsely chop the other1/2 cup of the almonds.
- Place the almonds, along with the oats, coconut, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar into a large bowl, and combine them thoroughly.
- Put the honey and coconut oil into a small microwave-safe bowl, and heat for a few seconds to melt the oil. Stir, dissolving the coconut oil into the honey, and then add the vanilla and almond extract.
- Pour the honey mixture over the oats, stirring to combine them until the oat mixture is well coated.
- Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a large, parchment lined baking sheet. Use one with sides so you don’t lose any of those lovely grains onto the oven floor.
- Bake the granola for 5 minutes, and then stir it around. Return it to the oven for 5 more minutes.
- You can pour the granola in a thin layer onto a piece of wax paper to let it cool, or leave it (as I do) to cool on the baking sheet.
- When it cools completely, you can break the granola into clusters and store in an airtight container or bag.
I was sitting in my garden after my day at work yesterday, watching the honey bees work the rosemary bushes. Watching the bees is something I’ve done for years–I think it started when I was on staff at a very large church, and I would come home on my lunch hour and allow myself to be absorbed into their bright and pollen-y world until it was time to go back to work. Watching their furry, small bodies dusted with pollen and listening to their steady humming somehow soothed and absolved my mind of the morning’s stresses, readying me for whatever the afternoon would bring.
I love the bees, and my gardens are full of things planted specifically for them—tons of rosemary, catmint and lavender—and even a few things that don’t really excite me, like delphinium—just so I can help feed them. Bumblebees are exceptionally fond of delphiniums.
This year, I’m planning on planting fewer things in the vegetable garden and giving more space over to bee and butterfly fodder. My original plan in doing so was to lighten my late-summer workload—I’m so busy in the winery then that I haven’t had time to harvest and care for all of the produce comes from my small plot. But now my intent is two-fold—it’s not just about making less work for me, but about making MORE for the bees!
So yesterday, as I sat immersed in the rosemary-blue world of the bees, I remembered a conversation with a co-worker earlier in the day, whose husband is a beekeeper. She told me that thirty-seven of his forty hives had died. Thirty seven! And his are not the only ones! If you’ve read the news at all in the past few years, you know that we are seeing bees die off and bee colonies collapse at rate that should greatly alarm us.
Watching the bees moving between the tiny flowers, the thought suddenly burst into my head that I have never prayed for them—prayers specifically offered up for the little pollinators of our entire world!
And because I am a person of faith (alas, not always as faithful as I might be) who does pray, I did just that. Right in that moment, while the thought was fresh in my mind and on my heart.
I prayed because the plight of the bees is real; because it impacts EVERY HUMAN ON THIS PLANET! Not just me, not just the bees, and not just the beekeepers, but every single one of us. We cannot survive without them.
0 bees=0 food=0 humans. It’s a simple equation.
And while I cannot come up with a cure for whatever is causing the bees to die, I CAN create more food for them and help the ones we have to be healthy. And, I can pray for them, and for the collective wisdom of those who are called to steward our planet—that’s all of us!
Maybe you could join me in helping them—if you’re not someone who prays, could you plant a few extra flowers for the bees? Could you be oh-so-very-careful in your use of chemicals in your yard and garden—perhaps even re-thinking whether you need to use chemical pesticides and herbicides?
If you’re afraid of all bees, killing them whenever you see them, could you learn to differentiate the non-aggressive honeybees and furry bumbles from the more vicious (and voracious) yellow jacket wasps?
All of these things are easy to research online. Type in ‘bee-friendly gardens’ and see what you discover! Maybe you might even want to take part in “The Great Sunflower Project” this summer, because who doesn’t need more sunflowers beaming at them !
Lovely little bees … I can’t cook without them.
We can’t live without them.
Have a glorious day, and as always, I appreciate your visiting and reading.