Spring Recap

Wow! Time flies – It is already July and I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like to. Here’s a little recap of my spring!

My garden bloomed with bleeding hearts and green ferns:

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I made and ate this amazing steak sandwich:

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I found this amazing aged goat cheese at Mandro’s Imported Foods ~and I highly recommend eating it if you get the chance!

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My indoor peace lily bloomed with a double flower… which I can only take to mean that my life will be very peaceful for a while.

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I went to Smorgasburg in DUMBO and ate some amazing foods! Post on this later to come.

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Spent a bunch of time enjoying music with friends in downtown Lancaster:

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I grew a potato plant from an organic potato and it started sprouting little potatoes. The students went crazy over this at school! They were amazed at how potatoes grow:

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I celebrated Derby day/ Cinco De Mayo/ my friend’s birthday in style with hats and mint juleps:

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I started grilling and ate a lot of salads that looked like this:

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Backyard gatherings started taking place… rain or shine.

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It became nice enough outside to bring Monk to the Fridge for outside snacks!

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We started taking a lot of hikes again in Lancaster County Central Park. It was warm enough for monk to dive in the river and wet enough to see a lot of fungus:

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My husband and Monk looking extra cute and picture perfect:

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Fire season started! I love sitting around a fire outside on beautiful evenings enjoying time with friends!

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I learned how to run the cotton candy machine for the dance at school! I got pretty good and swirling that blue floss around a stick… I am now available for hire for all of your cotton candy needs 🙂

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We took a field trip to Hershey Park at school. I’m not sure who had more fun… the teachers or the students.

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The strawberry festival took place at Lancaster Central Market – and those homegrown strawberries and Thom’s Bread shortcake tasted delicious!

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I’ll tell you about June tomorrow – Happy Summer!

 

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Downtown for the Holidays in Lacaster

I had a great Saturday with my girlfriends in downtown Lancaster. We went out for a day of shopping and holiday fun.

Here’s how our day went…

We started with brunch at Rachel’s Cafe and Creperie. They have a bunch of special holiday crepes right now and a few special coffee drinks, like peppermint mocha and gingerbread chai served in nice big white mugs.

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We stopped at Lancaster Central Market to pick up some veggies.

Doesn’t everyone look excited!?!

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Saturdays at Central Market are part of my weekly routine. I have been cutting my grocery store visits down a lot and getting everything I need down at the market. I have been picking up the essentials that I can’t get at Central Market at some of the other smaller groceries near my house. I could walk to most of them, like Lemon Street Market. Buy Fresh, Buy Local!

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There’s a new store on King Street! It’s called Seasons Taproom and it is dedicated to quality olive oils and vinegar. I tasted some oils and flavored vinegars and they are excellent quality and the flavors are delicious. I plan on going back to taste more and to maybe make a few purchases. I’m trying to cut back on buying more olive oils because I have many bottles at home that I have to use up. They don’t last forever you know… but I joined an olive oil club that I just can’t quit so I have a lot. Seasons is a great place to buy some nice hostess gifts or something for that friend that just loves to cook.

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And they have those large metal dispensers that I love… just like the other oil shop in Lititz, Pa.

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We walked up King Street to Lancaster’s Eastern Market. A holiday craft market was scheduled from 9-5pm and we wanted to check out the goods. They had a variety of items including cheeses, wines, cards, jewelery, belts, hats, and all kinds of homemade goodies.

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This market is open regularly in the summer months and has a bunch of food and veggies stands. They do have some special seasonal events, like this craft market, at other times throughout the year. They also run skill share weekends that showcase some local talents where you can learn a thing or two. Check the website for upcoming events.

On our way back to the heart of the city, we stopped at Tellus 360 – a shop full of reclaimed wood furniture (beautiful, but out of my budget) and sustainable gift items – some made in Lancaster and some from some major brands. Definitely worth a stop when you are in town! They even have live music some nights and an art gallery in the back.

Here’s our town’s official Christmas tree! If you’re lucky enough to be here on the evening right after Thanksgiving (Black Friday), you can catch the Mayor’s tree lighting and Tuba Christmas.

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Tuba Christmas is an old tradition in Lancaster City where – you guessed it – a whole lotta tubas play Christmas music, everyone stands around outside and the Mayor lights the Christmas tree. Good old-fashioned family fun 🙂 It actually is fun – and there are lots of shops open welcoming customers, market is open late, and there are a good bunch of cozy bars right in the area to choose from to warm your self up in afterwards. Like the Spring House Taproom, Lancaster Dispensing Company, and Annie Bailey’s.

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Onward we marched down to the 300 Block of North Queen Street to visit the antique stores and a huge sort of co-op store called Building Character. They have lots of old stuff turned into new things. Like these magnets:

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It really is fun to look through everything in this warehouse-turned-fancy. You can get an old hinge to match the other old hinges in your house, if you need that kind of thing. You can get second-hand clothes and housewares. You can get new handmade furniture. You can get cards and other crafty stuff. You can even get a rubber duck with a snorkel. It’s also the home to the old printing press that used to be in the Heritage Center. There is a guy there that will show you how to work the press and even let you use it! Building Character also hosts fun events. Check their website to see what’s going on soon!

We ended the night going to see one of our local favorite bands – Vinegar Creek Constituency. We made the trek across the Susquehanna to Burning Bridge tavern. A night of awesome music and lots of friends – and I had this awesome beer to top it all off! Friendship Brew by Green Flash Brewing Company.

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So… I had an awesome day in Lancaster, PA! If you find yourself looking for something to do, go downtown and spend a day just wandering around. There are so many cool shops to stop in and explore.

Check out the Lancaster website for events and information. There are two more weekends before Christmas for you to shop downtown and lots of upcoming events!

Spaghetti Squash

My friend asked me about recipes for spaghetti squash the other day and I though I would post a small collection of some of my favorites.

If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash… you should! It’s a good substitute for actual spaghetti if you are trying to lay off the carbs. I personally can’t give up pasta or I will starve to death, but I do like to eat different things once in a while…

There are a few different ways to cook the squash. It is pretty neat once it is cooked and the flesh turns soft. The flesh turns into long fibrous strings that you can remove just by scraping with a fork. Check out what they look like:

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I cooked this squash in the microwave by cutting it in half and placing it in a baking dish upside down with a small amount of water. Though I don’t usually cook many things in the microwave, it is the quickest method to cook the squash. It takes about ten minutes to get soft and you can’t really screw it up. If you bake it in the oven it will take 30-40 minutes, you should still add water to the baking dish and cook it cut side down. You could also boil it, which does take longer and tastes the same so I don’t really think it’s worth it.

No matter which way you cook it, you should try to let it drain once you have scooped it out of the skin. It will make whatever you are adding to it watery if you don’t drain off the extra water.

I usually just add my favorite sauce on top, just like spaghetti. If you mix in a little butter, salt, and parmesan cheese to the plain squash it makes it even better! You could also add crime fraiche if you want to get fancy…and delicious.

We had beef short rib ragu on top of spaghetti squash tonight for dinner, along with a mixture of fall veggies.

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Here are some of my other favorite recipes from around the web:

A very simple side dish

A Greek version

With shrimp on top

Roasted and sweet

I can’t seem to find my favorite recipe online, but I will tell you all about it. I’ll have to cook it up next time I get a spaghetti squash at market and write out the exact quantities. I don’t think it should be too hard to figure out. I made a very creamy casserole out of a pretty big squash one time – cooking the squash in the microwave, scraping it out, draining it, and then mixing it with a few simple but delicious ingredients. I included creme fraiche, fresh thyme, crushed pink peppercorns, nutmeg, butter, and the squash strands all in a bowl and mixed. Everything went into a casserole dish and into the oven until it bubbled. It was a rich and delicious side dish, perfect for a fall meal.

Experiment yourself! You could add pretty much anything to this squash. It takes the flavors of whatever you add to it, so it is super versatile!

Chicken Soup

I have been so busy lately… I just got a new job!

I am still teaching middle school science but I switched the school where I am teaching. It’s only two blocks away from my house, so I really like the short walk in the morning. Moving in the middle of the year was pretty challenging and it kept me working late for a while. I had a lot of packing up, moving boxes, and setting up a new classroom.

Right in the middle of this busy time, I started to not feel so well. Not sure if I was trying to do too much or if it is the crazy warm and cold January weather, but I was wiped out! When I don’t feel good, no matter how tired I am, I usually end up making a big healthy dose of chicken soup.

Here’s my chicken soup recipe that always makes me feel better:

1 tbsp. olive oil

3-4 ribs of celery, from the heart with the leaves attached

2 carrots, peeled

1/2 of a medium onion

2 cloves garlic

8 oz. cremini mushrooms

1 cup shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken

8 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup ditalini pasta or cut spaghetti pasta

handful of Italian flat leaf parsley

Cut the celery into small pieces and slice the carrots into rounds and chop the onion and mince the garlic. Add the olive oil and vegetables to a pot heated over medium heat. Saute the vegetables until they begin to become soft and add the sliced mushrooms. Saute for about 5 minutes more until all the veggies are soft.

Add the chicken stock and shredded chicken and bring to a boil. Add in the pasta and stir occasionally until the pasta has cooked (about 7 minutes). Chop the flat leaf parsley and add it to the soup.

Sometimes, if I have it in the refrigerator, I like to add some fennel fronds to give the soup some extra flavor.

This soup is pretty quick and easy. You can make it in no time if you have everything on hand. Using the rotisserie chicken is a big time saver and it adds great flavor. I buy rotisserie chickens quite frequently because there are so many things you can make with them. I usually use part of the meat for a recipe that night and freeze the rest in 1 cup portions in zip-top bags. It thaws fast and it is really convenient if you are in a hurry. I’ll be adding more of my rotisserie chicken ideas this year!

Summer Fish in a pouch

Sometimes I plan all my dinners for the week and sometimes I don’t. I usually don’t plan meals in the summer because I can run to market or to the grocery store whenever I want. Last week it was back to reality for me, back to school, and back to coming home later that I would like. I wanted to make a good dinner but I didn’t get any kind of protein this week at market or the grocery store, and I didn’t plan enough ahead to take something out of the freezer. So I stopped and picked up a piece of fish at Mr. Bill’s Seafood Tuesday night.

I chose flounder for dinner because it looked really fresh and it just came into the shop. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch said it was a good alternative to other options I had that day.

The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch has an app that you can download onto your smart phone. It lists fish that are best choices (that are caught/raised in a sustainable way), good alternatives (not the best choice but better than others), and ones to avoid (caught/raised in ways that are not good for the environment). It is pretty convenient and it only takes a minute to look up your choices while you are standing at the seafood counter. I think a lot about the sources of my beef, pork, and chicken. I try to get them from places like Country Meadows Farms that has free range chicken and grass feed beef. The seafood app helps me make healthy choices when getting seafood too.

Now I had a start to planning dinner! I started with the fish and checked out what kind of veggies I had in the refrigerator at home.

Here’s the veggies I had stocked up on:

One tomatillo, a yellow squash, small red onions, a bunch of plum tomatoes, some yellow heirloom tomatoes, parsley and cilantro.

How will I combine these veggies with my fish to make an awesome dinner? I am going to build a pouch pocket of freshness and bake it in the oven. Then, I will serve it atop couscous!

Here’s how it’s done…

Summer Fish in a Pouch:

1 tomatillo, small diced

6 red plum tomatoes, small diced

2 yellow plum tomatoes, small diced

1 small red onion, sliced thin

a hand full of flat leaf parsley and cilantro, chopped

1 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced thin

3/4 lb flaky white fish (I used flounder, but you can use any flaky white fish)

You’ll need to heat your oven to 350 degrees, and take out a baking sheet and parchment paper.

Fold the parchment paper in half and then cut it into an elongated oval/heart shape that is about four inches larger than the piece of fish. You want to be able to stuff the parchment with the veggies and fish and then be able to fold over the edges and twist the ends to make a pouch. It helps to cut the ends a little longer so you can twist them closed. Make sure you check out your fish first so you don’t cut the parchment too short (like I did the first time!).

Layer half of the tomatoes, half of the tomatillo, half of the onion,and one-third of the herbs on the bottom on the parchment paper. Form the layer to the shape of your piece of fish and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Season your fish on both sides with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. Lay your piece of fish on top of the bed of tomatoes, onions and herbs.

Layer the rest of the tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, and another third of the herbs on top of the fish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil again.

Place the slices of squash on top of your tomato layer and season with salt and pepper. Cover the squash with the remaining herbs and drizzle a little more olive oil on top.

You are now ready to close your pouch. Fold the empty half of parchment over to cover your fish and veggies. Begin to fold and roll the two edges together, forming a pouch. Twist the ends together and tuck them under the pouch so that it doesn’t open up in the oven.

Bake your pouch in the oven (at 350 degrees) for 30 minutes. Cooked the fish to 155 degrees, it will come out moist and flaky. To check the temperature, just poke your kitchen thermometer right through the pouch and into the thickest part of the fish.

Here’s what it looks like when you pull it out of the oven. Be careful when opening the pouch! steam has built up inside the parchment and you could burn yourself.

The fish and all the veggies make really yummy juice so it is perfect to serve with couscous or rice.

Here’s how to make couscous that goes great with this dish…

Lemon Parsley Couscous

2 1/2 cups couscous

2 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp. butter

zest and juice of one lemon

hand full of parsley

salt and pepper

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add in the butter and season it with salt and pepper. Add in the lemon zest and juice.  Pour in the couscous and parsley, cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Just a note* you may have to adjust the amount of liquid in this recipe depending on the brand of couscous you have.

Wait about 5 minutes and fluff the couscous with a fork. Serve the fish and veggies on top of a bowl full of couscous, spoon some of the juice over the whole thing.

A fresh, good-for-you dinner is served.

I had a lot of extra couscous… tomorrow I’ll post how to use the left overs!

A rainy day experiment at central market

I went down to central market really late yesterday. I don’t really like going later in the day because a lot of the items I want are sold out. However, sometimes going late pays off and you get a bunch of good deals. Some of the vendors will throw a few extra veggies in your market bag because they want to get rid of things before they pack up and head home. You often get half price bread if there is a lot left and it is nearing 2pm. You can talk to the stand holders a little bit longer because they are not as busy. I guess it is pretty nice and relaxing to show up late sometimes.

Yesterday was dreary and rainy so there was still a lot left at market by the time I arrived. Hurricane Irene was moving up the coast and I think many of the regular market goers stayed in. I did notice a surprising amount of hustle and bustle in the market area even though it was pouring outside. Millersville University has been bringing their new freshman class into the city the weekend before school begins for the past two years. There were MU tour groups entering and leaving market getting a glimpse of downtown Lancaster. I enjoy seeing them out in the city. I actually really wish they brought me in to town when I first arrived at Millersville. It took me a while before I discovered the greatness of downtown Lancaster. Venturing out of campus wasn’t really encouraged or advertised when I attended school as an undergrad. I’m happy they are making more of an effort to introduce new people to downtown. It is a great place to visit and spend your time. I like it so much I decided to call it home.

I was really pleased with my shopping trip. I didn’t buy a ton of stuff but I went home feeling like I got a great amount of veggies for a great price. I feel like that every week when I buy lemons and limes that are 3 for $1.00 and then I see then in the grocery store at crazy prices, like lemons for $.89 each!

I decided to have a sandwich for lunch from Delgiorno’s Italian Specialties.

I chose the “Laundry List” sandwich. I also picked up an iced Chai from Mean Cup and was lucky enough to find a table to sit at and eat.

As I sat and enjoyed my lunch, I wondered how much all of my veggies would cost at the grocery store. Was I really saving money by shopping at market? I certainly know that the veggies are higher quality. Even if I wasn’t saving that much money, I knew that I was getting better, mostly organic, homegrown stuff. I would probably pay more for it anyway. I decided to figure out the math and see if I was really saving money.

Here’s what I got:

From Sweet Annie Produce: small red onions, cucumber, parsley, and a little piece of thyme (all homegrown, organic) – Total $5.00

From Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative: Bok Choy, yellow wax beans, green heirloom beans, purple pepper (all homegrown, organic) – Total $7.50

From Meck’s Produce stand: red, yellow, and green peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, jalapenos (all homegrown), cilantro, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, sweet onion (not homegrown) – Total $11.20

My grand total from market was $23.70!

I went to Giant to price the veggies. The total for all of these veggies if I purchased them at the local grocery: $30.97!

So it was a comparable difference. I definitely think I am getting a way better bargain at market. This was kind of a light shopping trip for me this week. I usually purchase a lot more things like eggs, bread, and tomatoes. I will probably do another comparison with some of those items next time.

I would also like to add that I did notice that Giant was carrying some local produce. As you walked in the door, they were advertising tomatoes, zucchini, and green peppers that were all from Lancaster county – nice to see!

 

Vacation Eats- Silver Lake and Hollywood, CA

Janeen and I made it to California! We came out here to see our really great friend Erin (Hollywood comedy star). We are starting our vacation in Los Angeles. Erin lives in Silver Lake not far from Hollywood,  an awesome part of town.

The first thing we did when we got to LA was hit up a food truck! It was late but we just got off the plane and into Erin’s neighborhood.

This one was called Gus’s Lunch Box. It had standard Mexican food like burritos and tacos. I had the Taco Pastor, which was pork in red sauce. It did not have pineapple, which I was expecting because of how the Mexican place back home makes them.

The tacos hit the spot. I chose the mild sauce because I can’t eat very hot spices anymore… I’m not sure why, but I have developed an allergy to one of the chemicals in hot red peppers. The mild sauce was great though and the corn tortillas were really good.

In the morning, Janeen and I set out on a mini-walking adventure that turned into an all day affair. We walked through Silver Lake and stopped at Local for brunch. As you can see by the menu, it was right up my alley. Everything was fresh and well made.

Even though this menu looks bangin’ and I wanted all of the dishes on it, we chose to eat off the special whole wheat crepe menu.

We ordered the La Razza and a dessert crepe (the one with sweet lemon ricotta) and split them between the two of us.

Here’s the La Razza, cut in half with sour cream, avocado, and some awesome home fries. It also came with a smokey (but not hot) pepper sauce that was really good spread on the home fries.The whole wheat crepes added a new texture that went really well with all of the fillings.

The dessert crepe had lemon ricotta stuffing the crisp whole wheat crepe, topped with cooked fresh strawberries and creme fraiche. Excellent, I still ate a lot of it even though I was a little full from the breakfast crepe.

Sharing the two crepes was a great idea. I was comfortably full after the half of breakfast crepe and stuffed after half the dessert crepe. This place also had excellent iced coffee. They even had soy milk out on the fixins table. I really appreciate this because I always have to ask and usually pay extra for soy milk.

After our excellent brunch, we headed onward to the Silver Lake Farmers Market. Here we found super fresh fruits, veggies, and taste-tested many delightful treats. We got a ginger lime juice to share with cane syrup and found some pretty styling LA hats. Here’s some veggie eye candy from the market…

We started walking down Sunset Blvd. and just kept on going until we hit Hollywood Blvd. We actually walked the whole way to the Chinese Theater. Sightseeing, penny squishing, and stopping for a frozen margarita along the way. We had to call Erin to come pick us up because we had walked 5 miles to get all the way over to the most touristy part of Hollywood. On our way home we stopped at the Griffith Park Observatory for some spectacular views of the city.

After some freshening up it was dinner time! We went to Erin’s favorite place Pho Cafe for Vietnamese.

We shared the #3, spring rolls with shrimp and beef inside and a large Sapporo beer.

I got the Pho Ga #13 – rice noodle soup with free range chicken, ginger sauce, and herbs.

Both dishes are highly recommended. They use really good meat here, the beef and shrimp in the spring rolls and the chicken in the soup were all really good.

After dinner we went to a wine and beer bar. My drink of choice was Russian River Damnation. A smooth Belgian ale with an apple/pear taste to it. Perfect for sipping after a late dinner.

Cool Cucumber Soup

I have been really hungry for soup lately but it has been so darn hot outside that I don’t really want to make something hot to eat. I came up with this cold soup that is actually inspired by a soup that I made up last year when I had a ton of extra corn. I’ll share both recipes with you and you can try them both!

Cool Cucumber Soup:

4-5 ears of corn

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature

4 oz. creme fraiche (it usually comes in 8oz. containers)

handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 medium sized cucumbers

Before we start, I would like to share a handy tip: Place the corn on a baking tray or a large round dish on top of an inverted bowl. You will catch all of the kernels and they wont go flying all over the counter top. I usually cover the inverted bowl with a damp paper towel, just in case I hit it with the knife. You don’t need the bowl if your tray or dish has low sides. *not the best picture, but you get the idea.

Bring the 3 cups of stock to a boil. Remove the kernels from the corn and place them into the boiling stock. Turn the heat down to medium so your soup is at a simmer and add the garlic, butter, salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of each). Let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the cucumbers. To remove the seeds, cut the cucumber down the middle and run a spoon down the center of the cucumber, it will dig out all of the seeds.

Cut one cucumber into small cubes and set aside.

Take the other cucumber, cut it into chunks and put it in the food processor (you could also use a blender but you might have to work in batches). Add the cilantro to the food processor with the cucumber.

Ladle out about half of the corn kernels and liquid from the soup pot into the food processor. Pulse the mixture until no cucumber chunks remain. Pour the cucumber-corn mix back into the soup pot with the rest of the corn and stock. Add the small cubes of cucumber, heavy cream and creme fraiche.

Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Place it in the refrigerator to cool down. This is a great dish to make ahead of time. You could eat it warm or at room temperature, but it is really refreshing cold, especially on a hot day.

and the soup that inspired it…

Creamy Corn Soup

4-5 medium sized ears of corn, kernels removed.

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

3 cups chicken stock

handful of fresh cilantro

8 0z. creme fraiche

2 tbsp. butter

salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the garlic, jalapeno and corn kernels over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and watch as you are sauteing, you are not trying to caramelize the onions, just saute until they are soft. Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Blend the soup with a hand blender until smooth. You’ll have to ladle the soup into a blender and work in batches if you do not have a hand blender.

Mix in the creme fraiche, cilantro, and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want to add a little smoky surprise or a little extra kick- you can add 1 tsp of smoked sweet paprika. For a thinner soup, add more chicken stock. I usually eat this one hot, but it is probably good cold as well.

Raw Tomato Sauce

I have been eating tomatoes morning, noon, and night right now. I am certainly getting my fill. I made this easy pasta dish a few times now. It’s easy and quick and it tastes great hot or cold. The only thing you have to cook is the pasta!

Summer Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce:

1 box of pasta in any shape you like… I love mini-penne made by Barilla.

1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin 1 inch sections

3 garlic cloves (smashed and minced)

3 tbsp unsalted butter

salt and pepper

3 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)

1/2 lb feta cheese or fresh mozzarella

A handful of fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in salted water. Reserve at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water when draining the pasta. Place the onion, garlic and butter in a bowl and pour 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water them. Let the mixture sit for at least ten minutes, the butter will melt and the garlic and onion flavor will infuse in the water.

Chop up the tomatoes and mix them in with the pasta in separate large bowl. Take the basil leaves, stack them up, roll them together, and slice them into thin strips (chiffonade) and  mix them in with the pasta and tomatoes. Pour the pasta water mixture over the pasta and mix. Break up the feta or cut up the mozzarella and add it into the pasta and serve. The heat from the pasta makes the tomatoes kind of melt, creating a sauce that coats the pasta. This meal is really good the next day because the pasta soaks up all of the flavors.

This is the simple version I made the other night when I had some of my girlfriends over for dinner. I used whole wheat pasta this time.

You could also add other veggies really easily. I added yellow wax beans and baby zucchini to one version of this dish. I just cut the zucchini into little circles and the beans into 1 inch pieces.

You do not have to cook the veggies in a separate pan. Just drop them in the boiling water with the pasta about a minute before the pasta is done. You won’t have another pot to clean and they will be perfectly cooked, not over cooked. I have also been using local garlic because a few stands have it at market right now.

I added green beans into this version. I used the same technique of dropping them into the boiling pasta right before it was done. I used the fresh mozzarella cut into cubes in this one as well. I also added some extra herbs in addition to the basil (I used purple basil this time) I also added Italian flat leaf parsley and a few chives.

Be creative with your veggies! I usually just walk around market and get what ever looks the best and freshest. Simple, easy, quick and delicious.

Beautiful Beans

Look at these beautiful beans that available at market right now!

I have been using them in so many dishes lately. I thrown them in to pastas, soups, and salads. I just steam them by dropping them in boiling water for about a minute. Their color intensifies and it takes a little bit of the rawness out of them. After steaming, I drain them and drop them in ice water to halt the cooking process. This way they stay nice and crunchy. I really don’t like over cooked veggies that are mushy.

Here’s one of my favorite salads. It’s so easy to throw together, it only takes about ten minutes to make. It’s perfect to bring to parties in the summer months. You can mix and match the beans to go along with whatever is in season. It’s even great with a variety of canned beans if it is the middle of winter.

Easy Bean Salad:

1/3 lb green beans

1/3 lb yellow wax beans

1/3 lb dragon tongue beans (the ones with the purple stripes above)

1 can black beans

1 can chick peas

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 can cannellini beans

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small red onion, chopped small

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup garlic vinaigrette  or white wine vinegar

handful of  basil leaves, chopped

handful of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped

salt and pepper (to taste)

All you have to do is mix it all together in a big bowl and serve. It is even better the next day! You might want to make some extra for yourself…