Friday, October 10, 2014

~Summit House on Mt. Holyoke~

Admiring the CT River that flows through the Pioneer Valley
from the Summit House porch
Autumn!  The season when leaves change color from green to vibrant shades of yellow, orange & red!  Before they make their way to the ground it's such a treat to stop to admire them.   It's a beautiful time of year!  This is also the time for me to save seeds from my annuals & divide/ transplant bulbs.  There are many outside tasks, but enjoying the beauty that Mother Nature is sharing with us is an added plus.

Yesterday, my DH & I drove north to Hadley, MA.  Our destination was the Summit House on top of Mt. Holyoke.  On the winding road up the mountain we drove past some hikers.  The view from the parking lot at the summit was a tease of what awaited us.  Climbing up the ramp/ then stairs, gorgeous views were in all directions!  Walking around the "wrap around" porch of the newly renovated Summit House was definitely a treat!  We live in a beautiful area of Western MA!  Looking north my hometown of Amherst & also VT was visible.  Looking south in the distance we viewed the Springfield, MA/ Hartford, CT area!

Zooming in Looking North
The Summit House has a long history.  During the second half of the 1800's it was a hotel located on the top of Mt. Holyoke.  To learn about its fascinating history, click here.

For us, yesterday was the perfect opportunity to visit!  This is Columbus Day weekend!  Our New England scenery is beautiful.  Anyone interested in visiting this wonderful location, click on the "Plan Your Visit" info here.  Before leaving home, we did call the listed phone number for updated detailed info.     

Terrain near the Summit House
with my shadow

What a great opportunity to view our CT River Valley & learn a little history!

We did Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Harvesting Zinnia Seeds

The bright redyellow, pink & orange Zinnias blossomed all summer!  So many vibrant colors!  Each seed planted grew into a very bushy plant with so many bright blossoms & buds.  Combined with the Marigolds that were planted in front of them, our side garden has been enjoyed by our neighbors, too!  Especially our next door neighbors! 

Now that Autumn is here, it's time to save the Zinnia seeds from this year's crop!  What might seem like quite a chore, really is not at all.  When the colorful Zinnia blossoms have a dried out look, snip off the flowers from the stems of the plant. 

***I harvest the seeds before we get a good hard frost here in my area of Western Mass!  That frost will end my Zinnia crop.  Our weather will change & it will get colder. 
With a gentle breeze blowing!
A tissue box that has been cut down is the perfect container for the flowers, so they can continue the drying process.  Place those dried out looking flowers in the tissue box.  My container is sitting on the sunny window sill in our Family Room.  Those seeds that were harvested are the source for some of next year's colorful gardens! 

After the blossoms are dried, pull off the outer flower petals.  Discard the remaining parts.  Each dried petal is attached to a "tear shaped" seed.  After planting that seed next year, it will grow into a Zinnia plant.  There is next year's crop!  Sweet! 

"Tear Shaped" Zinnia Seeds attached to dried petals.
(File Photo)
I remove the dried petals from the seeds - as much as I can.  Those dried seeds will be stored in sealed labelled paper envelopes.  Next spring, after the rows in our gardens have been created for the seeds, I'll place the Zinnia seeds in the ground & cover with a light coating of soil.  Then, pat the soil gently.  Every day they will need to be watered.  Before you know it there will be sprouts!  Those little green plants will need to be thinned out.  When any plants are 5"- 6" tall, they can be transplanted to other parts of the yard.  The process will start again!     

Harvesting & saving Zinnia Seeds is a yearly tradition with me.  In any given year if I find that the flowers are much smaller than the previous crop, I take the clue.  The following year I'll purchase newly commercially packaged seeds for that year's colorful gorgeous Zinnias in our yard.

Do you harvest & save seeds for the next year's crop? 
I Enjoy it!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

~Early October~

Autumn is a beautiful time of year!  Early October brings cooler weather & the scenery in our yard changes every few days.  Soon, an abundance of oak leaves will be floating downward.  That always brings on the Fall yard work.  However, it's great to enjoy the scenery!

The pot of yellow Mums brightens up our yard even on a cloudy day!

Close-up of Mums

 Our Zebra Grass has tassels every Autumn!

The Hydrangea has lavender blossoms.  All summer they have been blue.

Every yard needs at least one scarecrow!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roasted Zucchini/ Summer Squash

Where's the photo?!?
Sometimes there's just not a photo!  Those are the times when we are either famished or I just forget to take out the camera or the iPhone.  Last night was one of those times.

It was a very quick dinner.  Those frozen Crabcakes do come in handy!  Crabcakes with tartar sauce are always so good on a sesame seed bun.  You know the ole' combo- 1 Tablespoon Sweet Relish with about 1/2 teaspoon Mayonnaise & stir.  Making the Tartar Sauce was easy, but we also needed a veggie.  No, not French Fries.  Opening the fridge & looking down to the veggie bin, 2 Zucchini + 1 Summer Squash popped into view!  Roasted veggies are always so yummy, so I had my answer.  Roast the sliced veggies in the same cookie pan & at the same temperature as the Crabcakes while they were baking!  Now that our temps are a lot cooler, heating the oven & kitchen actually feels great!  During the HHH summer months I really do not do much baking!  

Roasted Zucchini + Summer Squash
     2 - 3 servings

2 Zucchini
1 Summer Squash

or 1 Zucchini + 2 Summer Squash

  1. Wash veggies under cool running water, dry.
  2. Cut into 1/2" slices.
  3. Using a container or Ziploc Bag, combine 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil + 1/8 teaspoon Oregano & 1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder.
  4. Add veggie slices to bag & coat.
  5. Place coated veggies on cookie pan.  I placed them surrounding the Crabcakes
  6. Roast 20 Minutes at 450°F.
Zucchini & Summer Squash were added to my list to purchase at the roadside stand today.  I'll definitely be roasting these again as long as our local veggies are available!   :)  Try it!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Go BC!!!

Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, MA was rocking last night!!!  The Boston College Eagles upset 9th ranked USC with a 37- 31 victory!

Go BC!!!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana
Do you have a couple of Eggplants?  Whenever I see a display of Eggplants suddenly an image of Eggplant Parmigiana comes to mind!  A forkful smothered in tomato sauce is so good.  Usually the Eggplant has been fried, so I tend to stay away from ordering it when dining out.  Not that I don't enjoy the taste, it's that cholesterol thing with me.  I try to save fried foods for that once in a blue moonLike the Whole Belly Clam Roll served with tartar sauce & a side of Cole Slaw- when we were at the Cape.

For the past 3 years I've enjoyed Eggplant Parmigiana, but the Eggplant is baked, not fried.  While thumbing through a recipe booklet from one of our local grocery stores, the recipe caught my eye.  Now, when these veggies are in season locally here, I like to bake a batch a couple of times.  Definitely there are more servings remaining after dinner.  This freezes very well and can be reheated in the microwave on a busy night.  It's easy, it's delicious!  What can be better?

You guessed it.  Sunday's trip to Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow included Eggplant.              

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana  
     adapted from Big Y Life in Balance

Olive Oil for baking & sauteing 
(2) small Eggplants
Ground Pepper
Garlic Powder
Tomato Sauce (about 16 oz. - 20 oz.) 
(1) can 6 oz. Tomato Paste
8 oz. shredded Mozzarella

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Line a large cookie pan with foil and spray with PAM.
  3. Wash & dry Eggplants. 
  4. Cut each Eggplant into 1" round slices.  Cut an even number of round slices.
  5. Place each slice on cookie sheet and drizzle a small amount of Olive Oil on top of each slice.
  6. Then, lightly sprinkle with Ground Pepper & Basil.
  7.  Bake Eggplant slices for 20 minutes in 450°F oven. 
After slices are baked, remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 350°F.

*While Eggplant is baking continue prepping:  
  1. Spray a large baking dish with PAM.
  2.  Mix Tomato Sauce with Tomato Paste in a small bowl. 
  3.  Place a small amount of sauce mixture in baking dish, covering bottom.
  4.  Place baked Eggplant slices on bottom of baking dish.  Top each slice with shredded Mozzarella Cheese.  Then, top with another slice of Eggplant.  Place sauce mixture on top.  Sprinkle on Garlic Powder & Oregano.  
  5. Then top with more Mozzarella Cheese.  
  6. Bake for 30- 35 minutes or until Eggplant is soft. 
  7. Serve with Penne. 
For an extra great taste, I sauted 1 Green Pepper after cutting it into slices & added it to the sauce before baking.  That extra flavor was great!  Bake Eggplant Parmigiana soon!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Freezing Green Peppers

Ready for the freezer!
Fresh locally grown Green Peppers!  They taste so good!  During the colder months I really miss the opportunity to purchase a Pepper grown locally to include in a dinner recipe.  However, these days there is a Plan B going on with me & Green Peppers.  At this time of year when they are very plentiful, a quick trip to Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow makes Plan B happen very quickly.

Sunday was that day.  After a great time relaxing at the Cape, I was ready to get busy & freeze the Peppers.  It is a very easy process.

Cutting Pepper Slices
(File Photo)
 Freezing Green Pepper Strips 
  1. Rinse Peppers under cool running water.  Dry.
  2. Cut off tops.
  3. Discard seeds.
  4. Cut each Pepper in strips. 
  5. Place a handful of Pepper strips in a plastic sandwich bag.   (I do not use exact measurements.) I "eyeball" the amount I'd get from 1 whole Pepper for each bag.
  6. Close the sandwich bag and fold over. 
  7. Carefully, place all sandwich bags in a Ziploc Freezer Bag.
  8.  Seal, label and place in freezer. 
***Usually from the "cut off" Pepper tops a few chunks of Pepper can be saved to freeze, also.  These chunks are also placed in sandwich bags & then in a Freezer Bag.  (See photo above.)

During the harsher winter months whenever a Green Pepper is an ingredient in a recipe, I head to my freezer to remove 1 sandwich bag.  They are already cleaned & cut into strips/ chunks.  So tasty!  Well worth the small amount of time to prep them in the summer!

It did not take long to find my kitchen!  :)