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Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

When life gives you zucchini … make Zucchini Bread!

My husband (our resident gardener) has quite the fruit & vegetable garden going this summer.  We’re getting at least six zucchini a week (from two plants) and it’s not even July.

We’ve been grilling and stir frying zucchini.  Over the weekend, I decided to try out a new zucchini bread recipe.  It’s originally from Cooks Illustrated — with just a few tweaks.  I used low-fat Greek Yogurt, which I always have on hand.  And, I added dried cranberries and toasted pecans.  It was quite delicious!

It’s best to use small zucchini when making zucchini bread.  They have smaller and drier seeds than large, which is preferred in bread.

Zucchini Bread

2 small zucchini (1 pound)

2 cups Flour

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp. Ground Allspice

1/2 tsp. Salt

1  1/2 cups Sugar

6 Tbs. unsalted Butter, melted and cooled

2 large Eggs

1/4 cup Plain Yogurt (I used low-fat Greek Yogurt)

1 Tbs. Lemon Juice

Optional:  1/2 cup Pecans or Walnuts, toasted & coarsely chopped

Optional:  1/2 cup Golden Raisins or Dried Cranberries

Instructions:

1.  Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

2.  Shred the zucchini using large holes of box grater.  Squeeze shredded zucchini between several layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

3.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice together until smooth.  Gently fold shredded zucchini and yogurt mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula until just combined.  (Don’t overmix).  Gently fold in nuts and raisins or cranberries.

4.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out with few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes, rotating loaf pan halfway through baking.

5.  Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

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This weekend (March 9 – 11), Roger’s Gardens held a Tomato Mania event.  Tomato Mania is the world’s largest heirloom tomato seedling sale.  They have over 150 varieties of heirloom & hybrid tomatoes.  And there are many “tomato experts” to help guide you in your decision of varietals, fertilizer, soil, etc. for a successful tomato growing season.

Jeff is always looking for the best tomatoes to plant in our garden, so we went to Roger’s on Saturday.  WOW!!! I’ve never seen so many tomato plants!  And I’ve never seen so many people at Roger’s.

We asked one of the tomato experts if he could only get 3 or 4 tomatoes, which ones he would choose.  Here’s what he recommended (and what we purchased):

  • Sunny Goliath – yellow/gold, very sweet & juicy
  • Creme Brulee – deep carmel color with hints of red & chocolate, full-bodied flavor
  • Carbon – black, very flavorful
  • Green Zebra – yellow & green stripe with citrus flavor

As I walked by all the tomatoes, reading their descriptions, I kept thinking of all the wonderful summer dishes we’ll have this summer.  There’s nothing better than an heirloom caprese salad with home-grown tomatoes.

The checkout line took 40 minutes.  If you don’t mind missing the tomato lectures (Roger’s has a mini amphitheater for lectures), purchase your tomatoes when everyone is listening to the lectures.  It’s a much shorter line.

We kept running into friends on Saturday, so I wasn’t able to browse the rest of the gardens and snap very many photos.

At the checkout (in the Victory Garden area), they have beautiful displays of herbs.

For those of you in California, you can see where other Tomato Mania events are held by viewing their website.  Tomato Mania

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What did you do this weekend?  Here in So Cal, we had 80 degree days!  It was the perfect time to do some gardening.  My hubby and I tackled several outdoor projects that had been on our list for a while.

Project #1:  Replant the driveway planter

We have a sloped planter in between our walkway and driveway.  For the past few years, we’ve had Iceberg Floribunda Roses (white) and Pink Shrub Roses.

I was tired of the shrub roses.  In the summer, they get out of hand, requiring deadheading every few days.  So the hubby dug out the shrub roses and I planted Razzleberry Bushes (also known as Chinese Fringe Flowers) and Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha).

It doesn’t look like much now (a bit bare), but just give it a couple of months.  The Razzleberry blooms in spring and in fall.  The Mexican Sage has purple blooms most of the year in So Cal — and attracts hummingbirds and bees.

Project #2:  Re-pot Entry Pot

I have a potted spiral juniper tree that sits at our entry.   The tree was only 3 feet when I planted it years ago.  The pot was also black (to match the front doors), but has faded from intense sun.

As you can see, the juniper is now 5 feet tall, a bit out of control and hasn’t been pruned in a while.  Here’s the before picture …

It was quite a challenge getting the juniper out of that pot!!  It took 2 days of soaking … and brute strength from both of us!

Here’s my inspiration for the new plantings … a pot I saw at South Coast Plaza last month.

My pot is a LOT smaller than the one from my inspirational picture, so I scaled down.  I alternated yellow and purple primroses instead of using a double row of flowers around the tall grass.

I will add some ivy.  And then, I will try different methods of trying to turn the pot back to black.  Any ideas?  I can’t just spray paint it, as the pot does get too much sun.  The paint would peel off.

Project #3:  Re-plant my Herb Pots

I have 6 pots for herbs right outside my kitchen.  I planted herbs six years ago and some of them were in need of re-planting.   I planted sweet basil, several types of mint, a large pot of cilantro.  And, I pruned my oregano, parsley and tarragon.

This is what it will look like in a few months …

Overall, a very productive gardening weekend!  Hope yours was a great one!

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Looking for a fun holiday craft project you can do with the kids?

These lollipop yard stakes go together in an afternoon.  And, the kids can do so much of the project themselves (actually all of the project, if they are pre-teen or older).

Natalie and I painted the paperplates in traditional mint candy fashion (plus one with polka dots).  We actually painted them last year, but never got around to finishing them until this year.  The nice thing about this holiday craft is that they are easy to store — and take up very little space if you unassemble them before packing them away.

Here’s what you need:

  • Paperplates – the thicker kind works best (2 needed for each lollipop)
  • Paint – we used the inexpensive acrylic paint from the craft store
  • Brushes
  • Scissors & Hot glue gun
  • Cellophane Wrap
  • Ribbon
  • 1/2 – 3/4 inch wood dowls (in desired length for lollipop sticks)

Here are the steps:

1.  Paint the backs of the paper plates with your desired design.  Remember to paint two plates for each lollipop.  We painted our designs in pairs, so each lollipop would look the same on both sides.

2.  Once the paint has dried, you cut a notch in each paper plate the width of the wood dowl.  When the plates are glued together, this will create a hole for the dowl.

3.  Glue the paperplates together (facing each other, with the painted design on the outside).  Be sure to align the notches to make the hole for the dowl.  Once glue is dry/hardened, insert wood dowl in notched hole.

4.  Cut a sheet of cellophane about 24 by 24 inches.  You may need to adjust the size if your plates are larger or smaller.  Place the cellophane over the two plates that are glued together and gather it together at the bottom so that the end of the dowel sticks out.

5.  Tie the cellophane with a ribbon where it is gathered, making a bow.

Lollipops can be used in your yard, in potted plants, in planters … or like Natalie — she has one in her bedroom.

Happy Crafting!

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Breathtaking … isn’t it?  These are just a few snapshots of the grounds at Roger’s Gardens.  Does it inspire you to replant for the fall?

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If you’re looking for a fun outing in the Santa Monica – Malibu area, the Getty Villa is a great choice!  My cousin was visiting this week (from Kansas).  He’s really into architecture, so we spent a few hours at the Getty property in Malibu.  Admission is free; however, you do need to get online tickets in advance for a timed entry to the property.

The villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house called Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy.  The villa dei Papiri was buried by the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D.  Much like most of Pompei, the real villa is still mostly unexcavated.

The villa building houses Greek, Roman and Entruscan antiquities.  Many of the exhibits are permanent and are quite interesting.

The grounds of the Getty property (60 some acres) are beautiful.  There are reflecting ponds, benches, statues and interesting plant life everywhere you look.

Walking through the gardens is probably my favorite part of the Getty Villa.

On the north side of the Outer Peristyle (formal gardens and pool), there is an Herb Garden planted with species from the Mediterranean.  Fruit trees, flowering shrubs and herbs were planted that would have been used for cooking and medicine.

There are many fountains and water features throughout the property.


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It seems everywhere you look, people are using lanterns as home accessories (and for lighting).  I love the look — especially for summer.

You can find lanterns at Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, HomeGoods and most of the home decor stores.

I love them when used outside … hanging from tree branches, an umbrella or a covered structure.  On a front porch or near the edge of a pool.

They are also great when used as centerpieces.  And, they even can serve as the lighting for the table.

I snapped the photo above at our local Pottery Barn.  I loved how PB mixed lanterns with red and white ceramic pottery.  I came home and cleaned off  some of my old lanterns and added a couple that I picked up at Home Goods (love that store).

I created my own version of a lantern display in our family room.  I need to add some candles and possibly sea shells (which I have plenty of) … but I’ve only spent $25 so far.

I’ll be sure to post some pictures of 4th of July decor … as I plan to use lanterns on the tables for our 4th of July BBQ.


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