Monday, July 25, 2022

Zucchini Mushroom Risotto


Summertime often means having a plethora of zucchini growing in one's garden! If one does not have a garden, zucchini is usually low in price when they are in season. Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable that can be prepared in many different ways.  Did you know that its blossoms are also edible and also quite delicious?

 I plant zucchini seeds in large flower pots in my backyard when the danger of frost is over because I love utilizing zucchini blossoms in my recipes.  They are a true summer delicacy!

Once the zucchini from my plants are medium in size I pick them, and one of my favorite preparations is using them in risotto. This time I also added some chopped zucchini blossoms, a cup of sliced and sauteed baby bell mushrooms, and fresh herbs from my garden.  You can add or delete ingredients to suit your taste. Recipe to follow.

Zucchini Mushroom Risotto

Serves 4 to 6


7 cups chicken broth--vegetable broth can also be used
2 cups Arborio rice, uncooked
3 scallions chopped
One stalk of celery chopped
3 garlic cloves crushed and chopped fine
3 tablespoons butter
One cup of white wine
2 medium zucchini, peeled and grated 
One cup of sauteed sliced mushrooms
Ground black pepper
One cup of chopped zucchini blossoms--optional
Fresh basil and thyme if available, or dried.


Chop vegetables and grate the zucchini on a box grater.

Slice and saute the mushrooms in a bit of butter.

Pour chicken broth into a pot and bring to a simmer.

Saute the chopped celery and scallions until tender in a deep skillet with the 3 tablespoons of butter. 

Add the garlic and rice and stir constantly until all is coated and the rice is lightly toasted.

Slowly pour in one cup of white wine and stir well over medium heat for two minutes

Slowly ladle in a cup of chicken broth to the rice mix and keep stirring well

Add the grated zucchini and sauteed mushrooms

Keep adding one cup of the hot chicken broth a little at a time as the liquid is absorbed, all the while stirring the rice.

Add the chopped zucchini blossoms, about 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, and 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves if available. 

If using dried herbs, use one tablespoon of basil and one teaspoon of dried thyme.  Grate in black peppercorns to the mixture as desired 

Continue to gradually ladle in simmering chicken stock, stirring continuously until all is used. The risotto will become "creamy" and slightly sticky, yet still firm in the center, or al dente.

I added a splash of black truffle oil to the risotto before serving it as it adds a nice umami taste, but that is optional.  I also serve it with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

As you can see I have been collecting many zucchini blossoms!  I pick the male blossoms that have a long thin stem early in the morning when they are open.  If the blossom stem is thick it is a female and I leave that to grow as it will become a zucchini.  I pinch out the blossom's inner stamens and remove the pointy green ends of the stem. I then store them in my refrigerator on a layer of paper towels in a plastic container.  I try to use them within a day or two. 

Another favorite way to eat the blossoms is to stuff them with a bit of mozzarella cheese and either a bit of anchovy or a piece of prosciutto and then dip them in a tempura-style batter and fry them until crisp.  Everyone has a favorite batter. I favor Rosetta Consentino's recipe--click here.--with the exception that I use bottled sparkling water in the batter as I feel it adds more crispness to the final result.

I've also incorporated them into a breakfast frittata.  I always think of frittatas as a vessel for using up leftover vegetables or pasta as they are cooked in a frying pan along with beaten eggs, cheese, and herbs. My husband is skilled at flipping frittatas so that both sides get crisp, but this frittata I finished by baking in a hot oven for a few minutes, as I had decorated the top with fresh basil leaves and zucchini blossoms.


I hope my zucchini plants will keep the blossoms flowering for a long time this summer as we really enjoy them!

For Skywatch Saturday: We had some good rain storms this month, which is a blessing after months of drought. The storms create beautiful rainbows including this unusual double rainbow we saw as we were driving to the airport recently.  Double good luck to all!

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

Lavender Festival at Chatfield Farms

Yesterday, my husband, youngest granddaughter, and I attended the annual Lavender Festival held at the Denver Botanic Gardens extension at Chatfield Farmslocated at 8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Road in Littleton, Colorado. Chatfield farms is a 700-acre native plant refuge and working farm located along the banks of Deer Creek with facilities that include a visitor center, the historical Hildebrand Ranch, a restored 1918 dairy barn and silo, an 1874 Deer Creek Schoolhouse, and miles of nature trails and numerous wildflower gardens.  We love to visit the area as it is a short drive from our home!

More than 2,000 lavender plants of all kinds have been planted in a section of the garden and every summer a two-day Lavender Festival takes place.  We last attended in 2018--you can see that post on this link--so we were excited to return for a day of enjoyment.  There were garden tours, free entertainment in the amphitheater, barrel rides for the children (and adults!), demonstrations, a variety of food, dessert, and drink vendors, a farmer's market for fresh produce from some of the partners of our Community Supported Agriculture program, Lavender products made by local growers and artisans available for purchase and paintings and pottery available for purchase from local artists.

I love the smell of lavender and I have many plants growing in my gardens.  The good thing about it where I live is that the deer do not touch or eat it and it is a perennial plant that grows every year and spreads. I collect the lavender flowers to dry to make sachets for my linens and also use them as a spice in cooking  If you have some culinary lavender available try my Lavender Loaf Cake--click here for the recipe--everyone who tries it loves it!

There are many varieties of lavender planted at Chatfield Farms that can thrive in Colorado's climate and you can see PDF descriptions of them at this link. 

Chatfield Farms is full of other beautiful gardens full of flowers!

I was fascinated by the many colorful displays of coleus.

Chatfield Farms is also the location of an original farmhouse that is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1866, the Hildebrand family bought the log cabin and the surrounding land. In these dry grasslands nestled against the foothills, they turned a small cabin and vegetable garden into a thriving farm and ranch with 600 head of Hereford cattle. Over time the family extended the cabin and added clapboard to the exterior. The site also includes a schoolhouse (built in 1874); granary; icehouse; wood and blacksmith sheds. Recently renovated, the blacksmith shop is fully functional.

Now there is a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) located at Chatfield Farms, growing seven acres of vegetables, flowers, and fruit for subscribers (shareholders) and farm stands.

Our granddaughter enjoyed the Lavender Festival and had fun exploring the labyrinth, the gardens, the willow sculpture art installation, and the farmhouse very much. I hope the day will always be a fun memory for her and instill a love for lavender in her life forever!

Do you love lavender?

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Humor in the Colorado Hills!


When my husband and I go out for a drive, we often take CO 285 West and then turn off at the intersection of Parmelee Gulch Road into an area known as Indian Hills.  At elevations of 6,800 feet (2072.64 M) to 8,500 feet (2590.8 M), Indian Hills is filled with fragrant ponderosa pines and wildflower-filled meadows.   It was once a favorite place for the Native American Ute tribe to live and hunt and then pioneers began to settle there in the 1860s. Mountain vacation cabins were built for Denver residents in the early 1900s and more residents moved to the area and built homes as Colorado's population grew. There were even grandiose plans made by one man to build a "Western White House" for the Presidents of the United States to use on top of a mountain, but it never came about. You can read more about the interesting history of this mountain community at this link

The Indian Hills Improvement Association was established in 1926 and sponsors community events and historical preservation. The one-room building that had been used as a school from 1923-1949 was purchased and remodeled in 1952 to serve as a Community Center for the residents. It can be rented out for meetings and parties and other events.

On a portion of the property next to the Indian Hills Community Center is an eye-catching turquoise-colored sign where various announcements are made in letters placed by a volunteer named  Vince Rozmiarek. He actually constructed the sign for the community center to replace a smaller one. The sign can be seen by every car driving west on the small country road next to it. News and announcements can also be placed for a fee by local residents, such as seen in the congratulatory sign above that I took a photo of one day in researching for this story.   

Vince usually changes the sign every three days and one April Fools Day he had the idea to make a joke sign telling residents to slow down as the town was annexed by the town below it and their police were writing tickets.  So many people called the Indian Hills Police about this sign --more people than Vince ever thought would pay attention to it-- and he realized on non-announcement days he could keep the humor going!

He began thinking of funny puns and placing them on the sign. 

Please click on to enlarge for easier viewing

Soon, his funny signs were attracting attention, not only from locals but also on social media, and soon they were seen around the world!

Please click on to enlarge

Spring, summer, fall, and winter he changes the sign regularly.

Please click on to enlarge


Vince's signs bring a smile to many faces and he's happy that he's brought a bit of joy to all the cars passing by and through all the shared photos.  

I'm guessing many of you may have even seen a news story or a social media post with one of his signs in it?  

Vince has a Facebook Page--click here--where photos of his sign humor are posted, with the sign identification changed to "Vince the Sign Guy," and he has a web page--click here--where, among other things, you can suggest a pun to Vince.

Thanks, Vince, for sharing humor, spreading joy, and being a bright spot in Colorado!

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Georgetown Loop Railroad


Whenever we see this view driving west on Interstate 70 we know we are going to have an exciting day ahead somewhere in the Rocky Mountains! 

We love the views of some of the Rocky Mountains we see as we travel west.

One of our summer traditions since 2015 is driving to Georgetown, Colorado to take a ride on the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad.

See my first post about the railroad, which includes some historic photos, here.  

The train ride is a very scenic ride through an area of Clear Creek Canyon and over Clear Creek.  Clear Creek brings down melting snow from the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains for sixty-six miles, where eventually it joins the South Platte River.

As you can see in the video above, Clear Creek was running fairly high as we had a late snowfall this spring.

An informational placard for Clear Creek.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a narrow gauge of 3 ft (914 mm) in order to traverse certain points in a narrow mountain canyon.  It was built by the Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville Railway, and completed in 1884.  

It was considered an engineering marvel for its time! The then-thriving mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume lie 2 miles (3.2 km) apart in the steep, narrow, Clear Creek Canyon, and engineers had to design a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice that distance to connect them, slowly gaining more than 600 feet (183 m) in elevation. 

The route included horseshoe curves, grades of up to 4%, and four bridges that cross Clear Creek, including the massive 95-foot (29 m) high Devil's Gate High Bridge, that is seen in the photo above.

The successor Colorado & Southern Railway abandoned the railroad loop and the depot in 1939, but both were restored and reopened in 1984 by the Colorado Historical Society.

Our granddaughters enjoyed the ride very much! They were very brave when the train crossed over the high bridge, as you can see in this video that is on my millefiorifavoriti Instagram page--be sure to turn on the sound on the video to hear the train whistle!

There is an optional stop on the train to visit a Mine Tour and Gold Panning, but we have not as yet done this with our grandchildren as we are waiting for them to be a bit older to take the tour. While the train was stopped to let passengers on and off we saw this cute chipmunk along the side of the canyon wall. I think he was hoping we'd toss him something to eat, but we know not to feed the wildlife!

After the train ride, we drove into the cute little town of Georgetown to have lunch and ice cream. 

All in all, we had a wonderful time!

I have to congratulate the Colorado Avalance Hockey Team for winning the 2022 Stanley Cup! There was an estimated half million people at the parade and celebration held for them in Denver.  I took these photos from our TV.

The deer doe that gave birth to twin fawns in my backyard a few weeks ago--click here--to see that post and video--has been re-visiting us from time to time. The fawns are adorable and getting bigger every day. They are a joy to see!

Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July!

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