real life test kitchen: chocolate walnut zucchini cake with cream cheese icing

Ahhh, summer…. Your joys are infinite, even if your days are not — blackberries, tomatoes, nectarines, to name just a few. Zucchini, on the other hand, can be a blessing AND a curse. I don’t grow squash, but without fail, every year I end up with tons of the stuff, gifted to me by overburdened neighbors and coworkers. And it’s never the gorgeous tiny, tender ones, either — it’s mega-zucchini the size of your forearm. What to do with all this lovely bounty? Well, some of it gets peeled, grated, salted, and drained and used in zucchini fritters, but the bulk of it gets baked into breads, muffins, and bundts. I usually use my mom’s carrot cake recipe as my zucchini bread base, but this time I took a little inspiration from the Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcake recipe in last month’s Gourmet magazine and created a chocolatey, moist cake using only ingredients I had on hand. It was easy, too! Good thing, because I brought home yet another five-pound squash last night! –Megan B. Click for chocolately, zucchini-y goodness! (more…)

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j’aime roulottes: gypsy wagons for garden fantasies

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s daydreaming. Depending on how dreaded the task at hand is, my daydreams can take on epic proportions complete with authentic period costumes, casts of hundreds, and the occasional time-traveling subplot. These roulottes decorated by French artist Jeanne Bayol (site is in French) are the perfect prop for my runaway-princess-joins-the-circus fantasies! The old gypsy wagons are restored into hugely romantic items of adoration fit for fantasy garden parties and hurried secret meetings. These nomad-friendly caravans would be gorgeous additions to overgrown backyards and overstuffed imaginations. Learn more here (site in English) including how to purchase a book of photos of Bayol’s roulottes and perhaps even a wagon of your own. –Katie D.

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blog love from cooking light


It’s not often that we pat ourselves on the back here, but a few of you have emailed to let us know about this delightful Shelterrific shout out in the September issue of Cooking Light magazine. We’re listed upfront in “The Editor’s Dozen” which tickles us to no end (and reminds us that we need to do more sales posts for you!). Looking through the issue, we’ve now got a list of inspirations for future Real Life Test Kitchens. Crispy Skin Salmon with Fiery Asian Slaw, anyone?

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green tip: more reuses for glass bottles

We go through a lot of San Pellegrino mineral water in my house. I love its soft effervescence so, I buy it by the case. I have a really hard time tossing away those pretty green glass bottles, though. So I’ve taken inspiration from some of my favorite local restaurants and started reusing them for filtered tap water, iced tea, etc. I just soak the labels off (they come off really easily), wash ’em, and they’re ready to reuse indefinitely. I think they look lovely arranged for a party — I write on the bottles with a Sharpie and leave the marker out so guests can write their name on their glass, as well. But fear not — the marker comes off in the dishwasher or with a touch of rubbing alcohol. –Megan B.

Another reuse for a glass bottle: automatic waterer

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real life test kitchen: clean-out-the-fridge couscous salad

I’m heading out of the city for about a week, and I’m trying to avoid buying fresh groceries until after I get back. In an effort to use up the veggies quickly going limp in the crisper drawer, I whipped up this quick couscous salad for lunch. This combo ended up really tasty, but the recipe is easily adaptable to whatever you may have lying around. Enjoy! –Erica P. Click for couscous! (more…)

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