Simple Perfect Lemonade
The impact that holidays have on my mood is real. I don’t even have Memorial Day off, but a feeling I can only describe as three-day-weekend anticipation built on Friday afternoon anyway, as I watched the clock tick toward 5pm. The lack of social commitments and spectacular weather of these two days feel like a luxurious break on their own.

There aren’t many things that can break me out of my water-all-time-time beverage habit, but the arrival of summer weather is one of them. And lemonade is usually first in line for my liquid-y cravings. Amazingly, though, I’d never made it from scratch until earlier this spring during the citrus extravaganza following my trip to California.

I can’t believe I waited so long.

Just lemons and sugar

Woe to the time I’ve wasted buying lemonade from the grocery. Woe to the powdery mix that’s walking around emulating this precious elixir. Using only a few lemons, you can make the most perfect, delightful lemonade with hardly any effort at all. Please do so as soon as possible.

Zesting

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Watermelon small
Despite the seasonally cold and rainy weather that has swept across the majority of the US over the last few days, the beginning of summer is approaching in all its three-day-weekend glory. I love the bookends that Memorial Day and Labor Day offer to summer: for many, they mark the first and last travel weekends, family weekends and most significantly, cookout and potluck weekends of this productive season.

I always look forward to summer potlucks. As someone who hates to eat just one thing for dinner, the wide array of casserole dishes, salad bowls, and serving platters squashed together on an eight-foot table is a favorite sight of mine. I also relish the chance to pull out a few of my favorite recipes that are either too large or too high-calorie to cook for our two-person household. I imagine you have a few of these recipes of your own.

But if you don’t, or if you’re looking for something new to bring to any festivities you may have planned for the weekend, I dug through the archives for my favorite summer dishes that make for good sharing.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

Side salad
While I first learned to make this salad as a light, fresh foil to rich and heavy holiday menus, I find it really shines at summer cookouts and potlucks. It does take some time to prep as all the ingredients must be chopped and layered, but this can be done a day in advance. By adding the dressing immediately before serving, the result is a textured, satisfyingly crunchy salad that you cohorts will love. It’s almost a sure bet that your salad bowl will come home with you completely empty.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Dippity dip dip
This dip is easily one of my favorite culinary discoveries. Piles of onions are caramelized down to the soft, sugary, sultry versions of themselves. Then, mixed into Greek yogurt and mayonnaise, a delectable ambrosia emerges. I make this exclusively parties and potlucks: it’s not particularly high-calorie on its own, the thick-cut potato chips are a different story. Spread the calorie love!

Strawberry Rhubarb & Goat Cheese Toasts

Fancy breakfast
‘Tis the season for strawberries and rhubarb! And it’s ALWAYS the season for goat cheese and toasty bread. Give your party-goers a little DIY fun with these easy toasts.

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Fresh Sweet Pea Potstickers
A while back, I made a batch of potstickers that ruled over all other potstickers I had eaten. They were savory and rich and perfect, and as a result I dedicate time each year to can Ginger Apple Chutney, the driving force behind them.

As far as Brad is concerned, they are the only potstickers worth eating – why even bother, he asks? I, on the other hand, have yet to find a filling for these fried little dumplings that I don’t like, so I occasionally play with alternatives. This is, currently, my favorite alternative.

Spring greens!
If the Pork & Ginger Apple potstickers taste like autumn, these ones taste like spring. The ingredients are fairly simple: crisp green onions and peas accompanied by sautéed spinach and mushrooms. The bright flavors of the onions and peas are balanced out by the dark, earthy spinach and, my favorite, mushrooms sautéed in butter and soy sauce.

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Lemon Meringue Sunshine Cake
It’s another Earth Day and another 30 Pounds of Apples birthday! Four years ago today, I launched this little corner of the internet to archive tales and recipes from my kitchen, my garden, and my farmers markets forays. And despite some near-death experiences, the blog still continues to give me a creative outlet and an opportunity to share my successes and my failures with friends, family, and those of you I’ve never met. Thank you to all of you who read and cook with me, here’s to another four years!

And as any celebration should, this one features cake. A continuation of my citrus-y love affair, this is one of the most delightful cakes I’ve made in quite some time. Fluffy chiffon cake filled with bright lemon curd and Swiss meringue and iced with clouds of lemony whipped cream? Let’s just say I highly recommend it for your spring and summer soirées.

Lots of yellow and white ingredients
The cake part of this cake is a chiffon cake, lightly lemony in flavor. It’s spongy and light, so it provides a nice base for the bold lemon curd and the meringue.

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Lemon Curd
On our brief trip to California a couple weeks ago, I had a few goals: relax, spend a day in Disneyland, and visit a local farmers market to buy come citrus. I am pleased to say that I achieved all of the above. The following weekend I spent the majority of my time in the kitchen getting to know citrus in way I never really have before. Aside from acidifying canned goods, or zesting the occasional lemon cookie, I’ve never really thought about citrus as an ingredient before. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of lemonade, orange juice, and grapefruit halves, but when I found myself pondering the best way to use five pounds of lemons, I had no idea where to start.

It only took a few minutes of consulting my favorite cookbooks and cookblogs to see the overwhelming consensus: lemon curd seemed to be square one for entry into the lemon-y baking world.

Lemon, eggs, butter, sugar
And to be honest, I had NO idea what lemon curd was. I couldn’t recall tasting it, though in hindsight I now realize that almost every lemon-y dessert I’d had probably used lemon curd as a base. Lemon curd, it turns out, is the happy marriage of lemons, sugar, butter, and eggs. Somewhere between the consistency of a jam and a pudding, curd can be made with any combination of citrus, though lemon seems to be the most popular.

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How to Bake a Potato
I write this post on behalf of the baked potato. Of that simple, humble item that too often only finds itself offered as a side dish on restaurant menus, sandwiched on the side-dish-health-o-meter between the french fries and the steamed broccoli. And most of us just take the plunge and go with the fries – or is that just me?

A fleet of baked potatoes
A couple months ago, while trying to develop some easy, fairly-healthy meal options that also allowed me to keep the oven on for an hour in an effort to ward off Midwestern winter, I made baked potatoes for dinner one night. Not as a side, but as the whole damn meal. And you know what? It was AMAZING. Why was this not part of my regular meal routine? It is now, by the way: I’ve repeated this tasty dinner several times since the inaugural attempt, and I’ve learned a lot about baking a delightful potato in the meantime.

Here’s how it’s done:

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Blood Orange Salad
I’m not sure if it’s due to years of academic schedules featuring a week-long break in March, or if it’s exhaustion from darkness and grayness and coldness of mid-west winter, but I always catch a travel bug sometime this time of year. Every year. And most of the time, I just bundle up and wait out the long weeks until warm weather returns. But not this year! In a truly fortunate turn of events, Brad’s presence was requested at a conference in Malibu, California, and I tagged along for the price of a plane ticket and half of a rental car.

The timing could not have been better. Three and a half days of sunshine, ocean breeze, and t-shirt weather was a welcome break from the chilly winter in Ohio.

California Montage
When I travel, I love visiting local farmers markets, especially if my destination boasts a lengthy growing season. Because I limit my “exotic” produce purchases in Ohio to very special occasions, I jump at the chance to buy them when they’re grown just a few miles away. In southern California, I was after two things: citrus and avocados. And I came back with plenty of both! Definitely worth packing lightly so I could stuff my carry-on with produce on the flight home.

But how to use my precious cargo? I kicked it off when a bright, fresh, totally California salad.

Precious ingredients

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Dark Chocolate Amaretto Pie
I don’t make a lot of pie. I grew up in a cake house, you see. My mom always preferred baking cakes and cookies to pies, and my sister and I expanded on this behavior as 4-H cake decorating students for several years each. Pie, which has taken on a role of symbolic role of domestic culinary prowess in our culture, was simply not something I learned to make as a kid.

The pies my mom did make were never, ever, double-crusted fruit pies. If we did have a pie for dessert, it was typically composed of a pre-made graham cracker crust, a box of pudding mix, and a mound of Cool Whip.

And you know what? I freakin’ loved it.

A motley crew
To this day, while I will certainly eat a slice of apple, cherry, or other fruity pie if it’s presented to me with a sizable scoop of vanilla ice cream, the pies that I dream of are the cold, creamy, pudding-ish pies that I grew up on.

This pie follows in that tradition, though with some notable modifications. First, I love making my own graham cracker crusts. I like a heavier crumb with more crunch, and I like that I can control the level of sweetness and stickiness by adding as much or as little sugar and butter as I like when whirling it together myself.

Graham crackers Read on »

Easy Breakfast Burritos
When I moved to Columbus last January, Brad and I encountered a major first: we began working on the same schedule. With my former life in theatre and Brad’s many years of graduate and then law school, we always operated on schedules that left us with very few hours that we were both at home. But now, both working very regularly-scheduled jobs close enough that we actually carpool, we suddenly found ourselves facing a dilemma: who has to get up first?

Simple ingredients
For lots of reasons, I was the lucky winner to set my clock earlier and use the shower first. I like to pack my lunch in the morning, I blow-dry my hair, I could daudle around a bit. And one day, for a treat, I made us a hot, freshly-cooked breakfast. It wasn’t a major affair: there were no biscuits, no gravy, no French toast or quiches. But it was hot, it was savory, and it was DELICIOUS.

It was this breakfast burrito. Don’t be afraid! These take about 10 minutes to make, start to finish, and they take fairly basic ingredients. Sure, you can gussy up a breakfast burrito with sausage, bacon, peppers and onions, all kinds of things: but the basics are utterly delightful and allow for quick, weekday breakfasting.

Eggs and cheese in butter Read on »

Spiced and Smoky Sweet Potato Soup
Though the days are growing longer, the deep cold of winter persists here in Ohio. I’m usually over winter by about January 2nd every year (not a useful attribute for a resident of this region, I realize) and am ready for warm weather to return shortly thereafter. But even more than warmth, I long for color. Ohio winters are just so dang gray, and for all the brilliance that deciduous trees provide in spring and autumn, the scraggly brown trees against a flat gray sky and the steal and concrete of the city don’t make sure a very vibrant locale.

It’s lovely, then, to find something to make for dinner that add bright color and spicy, smoky flavor to the room. This soup is just the ticket?

Roasted Spiced and Smoky Sweet Potato Soup
This recipe is adapted from one I learned at a cooking class in North Carolina. The base of the soup is composed of two fall market items that store quite well, so it’s just as easy to make in the winter as in late autumn.

Sweet potatoes and apples

Sweet potatoes and apples: such good friends these can be in dishes both sweet and savory! The sweet potatoes don’t need any special treatment before heading into the oven, and meanwhile, you can prepare your apples and other ingredients.

Apples and curry Read on »