Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stuffed Zucchinis with Roasted Tomatoes and Melted Sharp Cheddar



The hustle and bustle has begun.  The farmer's markets are moving into full swing.  To my absolute delight and surprise, a new farmer's market has set up shop about 5 minutes from my home.

They've chosen to locate in the lot of an abandoned sugar mill not far from here.  Several times a day, the trains still chug-a-lug by at a slow and steady pace right along where the market is located.  When I arrived early in the morning, I heard the clickety-clack of the train's wheels rolling along directly behind the market activity.  The sounds were like a backdrop behind the soulful wailing tunes of a vocalist who crooned a jazz piece in an area set up alongside the market.  

I thought it a magnificent setting for a market.



The lovely and elegant wisteria blooms

The singer's voice was smooth and rich and the morning atmosphere was bustling but quiet as farmer's worked to set up their stalls.  Trucks were open and being emptied of loads of fresh lettuce, baskets of radishes, and bins of stacked carrots.  Laughter could be heard as farmer's called out to one another in greeting and then said something funny.



Soft and pretty light on a fading moon by a rising sun


Everyone seemed to know everyone and I imagine that these weekly markets are a good place to catch up with the news of other farmers trundling their produce in from all parts of southern Texas.  

I am not, by a long-shot, a country girl, but these country scenes, whether it be farmer's markets, fields of farm animals, or tractors churning up and down their fields just captivate me for some reason.  

This sweet early morning scene {above} certainly caught my attention the other day as I was heading out of the city.  It was early in the morning. The sun was slowly swelling above the horizon.  Seemingly oblivious to the change of sweeping light, this cow in the field continued his morning munch.  The moon was full and soft, gently hanging in the sky like a pale round jewel but on and on the cow munched away, seemingly oblivious to the beauty of his surroundings.





I must confess, the mood around our house is turning restless.  With the seasonal shift, markets opening up, baby farm animals galloping about the fields...comes changing seasonal moods.  I feel ready to close the books and push them aside.  

Adventures, road trips, and summer days full of daydreams are calling.  





Riley and I find our eyes sliding down the page of each class schedule to count and recount the weeks, the days, the pages, the chapters until the final assignments appear at the bottom.  

And then I chide myself.  "Don't push the time."  This time will never repeat itself.  Find the beauty in this endeavor and continue to teach the joy of learning and the pursuit of new knowledge.

But...truth be told...the end of May is...ahem...{eight} weeks away!






So, back to market day.  Lots of carrots that day at the market...dirty and earthy, pulled right up out of the ground. I chatted a bit with the bee keepers or apiarists, as they are known, and sampled some marvelous creamed honey.

Any tidbits they tell me about bee keeping I find fascinating.  I am ridiculously afraid of bees.  They cause some kind of primal school-girl-like curdling scream to emanate from me when I hear any sort of buzzing sound but I, nonetheless, would very much like to visit a bee keeping farm and understand and witness the process more.

"Honey is the only food that we humans eat that comes from insects" the apiarist informed me.  I had never even considered this before and wondered how in the world did someone bravely reach in and taste honey for the first time.  And what did the expression on their face look like after that first taste?!






The fields are lush and purple bursting with  bluebells right now.  If there is a show-me season of states then I would have to say that Texas can definitely claim "spring".






Since the end of the year feels like it is within grasp, and we are all weary of the same 'ol, same 'ol schedues, it seems that energy for weeknight dinners keep losing steam and getting simpler as well.

Often, I am looking for something quick and easy that I can pull together in less than 30 minutes at the end of the day.

More than often, I am peering into the refrigerator and pantry and literally holding the last of everything salvageable there and trying to figure out what magic could happen in a short amount of time.





I did pull a quick dish together the other night that was unanimously deemed delicious.  Leftover from the market that week were a handful of zucchinis, yellow squash, and an eggplant.  I also had some yellow cherry tomatoes and a bag of cheddar cheese that was nearly empty.


Why does everyone in Texas say 'hook 'em horns'...look at this big guy...that's why


I decided to try and salvage the fresh produce by making some stuffed vegetables.  I scooped out the meat of each of the vegetables and sauteed them with an onion, herbs, and some carrots.  

In a separate pan, I browned the ground beef and seasoned it. (but that could be easily omitted to make this vegetarian)






I decided to roast those yellow cherry tomatoes. They burst with sweet caramelized flavor when roasted in the oven.

After mixing everything together, the beef, the vegetables, and the tomatoes, I gently piled spoonfuls into the zucchini, squash, and eggplant shells.





With a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper each vegetable boat was covered with shredded cheddar cheese and in the oven they went.

The oven was set to 400˚F (200˚C) and they baked for about 30 minutes.  






These stuffed vegetables have been repeated several times on weeknights when leftovers are calling for attention, energy is low, and the lure to reach for fast food is tempting.

Instead of beef, rice is another option that would give some heft to this quick meal.





Looking at the calendar of events in this area, many food and cultural festivals are coming up.  The time of cool breezy weather is limited here and between now and the beginning of June, calendars are full each weekend with outdoor activities before the temperatures begin to sizzle.







Summer is just around the corner.  My herb pots are getting refreshed with new seeds.  Little ones are wobbling on their bikes along our neighborhood lanes learning how to ride on two wheels.  

My daily walk is getting crowded as the scene looks like something from the movie "101 Dalmations" as people and dogs of all statures are enjoying this window of perfect weather.





I don't know what made me notice this scene {above}.  The khaki colored grasses were so tall that the richly hued cream, chocolate, and caramel colored cows were barely visible.  Set against the backdrop of olive and sage colored trees, the scene appealed to me.

I think if I could create a pleasing outfit, it would have all of these colors in it.  From nature to fashion...perhaps that is how some fashion designers find their inspiration.







So if you are like us, and you are feeling that dreaded end of the year blues drawl lamenting the story of your daily grind, you might look to something like this quick and flavorful dish to get through those sometimes bothersome week night meals.










43 comments:

  1. I love your stories and photos. They are both wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a lovely simple meal, I need to make more like this. I love your phrase "This time will never repeat itself"...I'm going to remind myself of that. I miss my girls!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sue. I hope your girls are almost finished with college and will be home soon. Any exciting summer plans for them?

      Delete
  3. Your descriptions of the market near your house sound incredible. And I agree, old buildings are the perfect venue for farmers' markets. That's one of the reasons I love my local Eveleigh Market, held in an old railway goods shed. The countryside around you looks so beautiful! And those spring flowers by the roadside! Stunning. Gorgeous recipe, too. So simple, tasty and nourishing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been here 3 years and usually I focus on the dry flat dusty landscape. I have been so pleased to see this spring burst of lush greenness with so many wildflowers in the countryside. They key is to get out of the city during this time of year!

      Delete
  4. What a beautiful spring you find yourself in! I loved reading the story..the farmers market sounds just wonderful! Our snow just melted! The daffodils are just beginning to bloom. But we can see our breath in the morning and still will keep the flannel sheets on the beds for a while. Today, however, is the first day that the windows were open in the afternoon...and I hear birds singing! Soon, very soon! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a bit silly, but I still have our flannel sheets on the beds too. Many people down here wouldn't think of having flannel sheets but I got used to them after living in MI and NY.

      Delete
  5. This is sound great you put Italian sauce on your recipe. I cooking some food using this Sauce also but never thing to put this on zucchinis. You giving me and idea to make it so. Thanks so much I would love it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Italian sauce pairs so well with zucchinis, squash and eggplant too. I hope you like it.

      Delete
  6. It's so fun to see signs of spring in your area- all the pretty flowers and butterflies! Here in Ireland the roads are lined with daffodils, which is nice even though it doesn't feel like spring just yet (so chilly and blustery!). In my opinion, you cant go wrong with cheesy stuffed veg! Looks very tasty! Also, it seems as though you need a special treat to break up the daily grind- maybe a night out with the girls?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know why but I love chilly and blustery weather so much. I would really fit into Ireland, England, and Scotland. I don't know how long it would take for me to tire of rainy blustery weather. I think it would be a long time. Good luck house hunting! How absolutely fun!

      Delete
  7. Once again, such lush and lovely photos - and a luscious meal!

    ReplyDelete
  8. It sounds like you are having some luscious meals yourself on your wonderful road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Every meal you make looks like a feast. I am such a boring cook. I need to drop by your place for some cookery lessons :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or...we'll have to meet up someday in Eureka Springs! Wouldn't that be something?

      Delete
  10. Farmers Markets are so inspiring, as are these beautiful photos of country life. GREG

    ReplyDelete
  11. That photo with the lone cow and moon was something special but then all your photos are. It's lovely to see the spring photos as we slide into colder weather. That cow/bull(?) with the horns must have a strong neck to hold that head up.
    Every day I go to work and hope for the weekend to come fast, I think the same thing - that I am willing my life away. It's a real quandary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just stared at that Longhorn Cow and wondered how it could hold up such a weight! Thank goodness he doesn't have to fit through too many doorways!

      Delete
  12. Since I often make stuffed vegetables and zucchinis are a firm favourite this is a delightful variation on the theme. Above all would like to say 'thank you' for those wonderfully evocative photos to file and cherish!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Images from the country are endlessly captivating. I love the story you've told here with your beautiful images. I am particularly fond of red barns. There is one a few miles from where I live that I always want to stop to take a picture of whenever I drive by it. Just lovely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is it about barns that captivates us? The most beautiful barns that I have come across are in Oregon, Vermont, and Missouri.

      Delete
  14. Sarah, you're amazing. You see so much beauty around... Much more than I do, and I'm looking at the same stuff!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How interesting it must be for you to have a perspective from Russia and be settled in So. Texas! I'll bet so many things amuse and confuse you here...it is that way for my kids...and they were only raised in the Northern States.

      Delete
  15. Yum, this sounds delicious! Enjoy that new farmer's market -- just in time for summer's bounty!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that I don't have to drive across Houston to get to the nearest market. This one is in more of a rural setting that is so much nicer than the urban location.

      Delete
  16. I am a city girl, or used to bo? I have this feeling that it would be good to live in a very small house with a garden next to in, in a countryside. And I love farmer markets and all the goodies.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I could stare at these pictures all day... the first one is just GORGEOUS!! Those beautiful colours! It's wonderful seeing your corner of the world come to life through your eyes. Flowers everywhere. Farmer's markets are the best, aren't they? It's the closest feeling to having my own garden as I can get right now.

    Pop over to my blog in the next little bit...I am doing a giveaway that I think you might like!

    Love to you and yours. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  18. I could stare at these pictures all day... the first one is just GORGEOUS!! Those beautiful colours! It's wonderful seeing your corner of the world come to life through your eyes. Flowers everywhere. Farmer's markets are the best, aren't they? It's the closest feeling to having my own garden as I can get right now.

    Pop over to my blog in the next little bit...I am doing a giveaway that I think you might like!

    Love to you and yours. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jaime. Yes, farmer's markets have that "back to grass roots" quality about them that gives such a sense of community and pureness to the world.

      Delete
  19. Beautiful Photography Sarah... You know whenever I am really happy.. You words and photo always makes me smile...
    Love the post the clicks and the recipe! As always

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Reem...It is so satisfying trying to capture the change of seasons...

      Delete
  20. Gorgeous photos Sarah. Funny, I recall reading your posts about the heat last summer and find it hard to believe that almost an entire year has elapsed! You also reminded me to resurrect veggie boats as summer approaches. So easy to make on the grill. A few years ago, I used to make them and would cook up a pound or two of ground beef, bag individually and freeze to avoid heating the house up. I'd cook the veggie combo filling in a disposable aluminum pan lined with foil. No house heat and minimal clean up. The foil pan lasted all summer. Will have to do that for the upcoming summer. Take care!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Christine, those are terrific ideas. Summer heat in Houston is a definite issue for me. I don't do humidity well but so many people here just love it. What great ideas to save on turning on the oven or stove top. I'm going to remember this.

      Delete
  21. Sarah, your photographs are awe inspiring! Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. you make me want a country life! Lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This time of year is so wonderful at the farmer's market isn't it? SO much to choose from!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Sylvie...and strawberries are in season down here. Feels so soon!

      Delete
  24. Such a beautiful and transporting post... your ability to weave your words with your stunning visuals makes for such a powerful and breathtaking escape.... into your world!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww...Tamera your words are so sweet. Thank you.

      Delete
  25. Your images stun me. Over and over again.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you so much for recommending a veggie option with this recipe - I may be making it for my veggie parents sometime soon

    ReplyDelete

How wonderful to hear from new friends...