Last August, I canned 118 pounds of tomatoes. Broke ’em down one-by-one and divvied up them up into whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, plain tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and marinara sauce. And while I certainly do use those the other products, the biggest motivator is the marinara sauce. Which I ration carefully across the year for one dish and one dish only.
Having stumbled across this delightful combination of ingredients by pure accident, I accidentally discovered a meal that Brad and I both find so perfect, so delicious, that I have to work really really hard to make anything else for dinner. Originally hatched as a way to use up the previous year’s supply of home-canned marinara sauce, this dish now holds permanent quarters at the top of our favorites list. I know that “Magic Pasta” doesn’t really indicate the components of the meal particularly well, but it’s all we call it. If you prefer, you can call it Pasta with Amazing Tomato Cream Sauce and Italian Sausage.
The arrival of summer, in Ohio, means that trips to the farmers market finally yield treasures beyond eggs, meat, and cheese. I grew rather spoiled in North Carolina where there really is a selection of fresh produce all year long. Sure, January is primarily sweet potatoes and greens, but even the flashy summer-show-offs like asparagus and strawberries begin to appear in early March.
But here, I stalk the market every Saturday in May hoping that this is the week when those photogenic strawberries will finally make their annual debut.
The trouble is, I have very little self-control when I secure, at last, these scarlet gems. The bulk discounts for buying more than one quart literally always get me, and I arrive at home suddenly doubting that I’ll be able to use up multiple quarts of berries before they wither and rot in my fridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.