Posts tagged ‘summer’
Everyone has a slightly different meaning of appropriate cook-out foods depending on your cultural and regional backgrounds. Growing up in NJ, a summer BBQ always meant hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and chips. To my husband, who was born in Brazil, no cook-out is complete without linguica (Brazilian sausage) and short ribs. I have also heard that BBQ and cook-out can signal two totally different affairs if you are from the southern US.
No matter what, it is hard to disagree that anything off the grill just screams summer. My husband got a new Weber charcoal grill for his birthday yesterday, so we are excited to have many grilled treats this summer. Here are some of my favorite summer recipes for the grill. These are all perfect for any special graduation celebrations or Memorial Day BBQs coming up!
Have you heard of Shake Shack? In some ways, I would lightly call it the “In-N-Out” of New York City based on its popularity with tourists. My husband is obsessed, and was one of the first in line when they opened their Boston location. In my opinion, the regular burger at Shake Shack is overpriced and nothing to write home about. However, the Shroom Burger or the Shack Stack are worth the hype. If you have never had the privilege of indulging here while in NYC, then allow me to describe it. The Shroom Burger is two Portobello mushroom caps that have been lightly scooped out to accommodate a generous cheese filling. They are pressed together, lightly coated and then deep-fried. The result is a deliciously unhealthy, cheesy and hearty vegetarian mushroom patty. To create the Shack Stack, this monster patty is layered on top of a normal beef burger and served on a grilled potato roll. To say that this is over the top is an understatement, but more than just my husband is obsessed as evidenced by the around-the-block lines that Shake Shack draws daily.
Since we are moving out of Boston, my husband and I wanted to create a homemade version of his favorite burger. We each had our own idea of how to do this. A Shake Shack purist, his mission was to recreate as close to an exact replica as possible – double mushroom patty with a gooey cheese filling over a beef patty. I wanted to come up with a less intense version that is not quite as indulgent so that we can enjoy this treat more often at upcoming summer BBQs. In my opinion, both avenues were a messy success. Our method still needs perfecting and will never quite replicate the real deal, but for a homemade option we are quite happy!
Neither of the following are recipes, more like ingredient lists and bare bones guidelines of what we did (with pictures). If you have or plan to experiment with this chain favorite, let us know what you did that worked (or didn’t!)
Classic “Shack Stack”
Take two medium-sized Portobello mushroom caps and wash well. Gently scrape out the middle of the mushroom (what we call “gills”). Place mushroom caps between two paper towels and two microwave safe dishes. Microwave for 1.5-3 minutes, or until moisture seeps out and the mushroom caps become flat and pancake-like. Allow to cool. Mix together shredded cheese (we used Muenster and Cheddar). Form a palm sized ball of cheese. Place the cheese in the center of the mushroom caps. Surround with plastic wrap and wrap tightly to adhere the two mushroom caps together.
Allow to sit for several minutes. In separate bowls, lay out flour, a beaten egg, and plain panko bread crumbs. Dip the mushroom patty in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then repeat in egg and breadcrumbs.
Deep fry in canola oil until the outside is golden brown. Meanwhile, cook a burger as desired. Toast a potato roll lightly. Assemble burger with mushroom patty, lettuce, tomato and onion. Serve immediately.
Lightened Up “Shack Stack”
Wash and prepare one mushroom patty as above. Follow instructions to flatten the mushroom cap. Mix together one to two tablespoons of shredded cheese and place in the middle of the mushroom cap. Create a covering for the cheese with either 1/4 lb ground beef mixture or a pre-formed hamburger patty.
Grill beef side down first until meat is cooked as desired, then flip for one minute to melt cheese.
Serve on toasted potato roll with lettuce, onion and tomato.
Question: Anyone hosting a memorial or graduation celebration BBQ this weekend? What is your favorite thing to make on the grill?
Summer happened overnight in Boston, it seems. It has been warmer here than it has been in Southwest FL for the past few days! Now that is hot. When my thermostat reads 88F INSIDE the house, there is absolutely no way you can convince me to turn the stove on for longer than absolutely necessary, let alone even think about using the oven. I have survived 4 Boston summers with no A/C, but if it stays this hot for much longer I might break!
To beat the heat, I end up eating a lot of salads in the summer. While I love my leafy greens, salads don’t have to be so monotonous. Here are some of the things I have been making lately:
A lovely, multi-colored, Mexican-inspired salad that is sure to brighten up any meal. I mixed mine all together right away and have enjoyed it for lunch for the past few days. You can eat it plain, serve it as a side for taco night, or even fill a tortilla with it! For those of you afraid of the long ingredient list, most of the work is just simple veggie chopping! Jicama is the most unfamiliar ingredient, but is a wonderful, naturally sweet, tropical starch-y vegetable that adds great crunch and flavor. I can see this recipe easily becoming a summertime lunch staple! I think it would be fun to turn it into a layered jar salad the next time I make it!
Who said fruit salads are just for dessert? This Mango Blueberry Quinoa Salad also makes for another great lunch salad! The lemon-basil dressing is refreshing, and the blueberries and mangoes are unexpected but delicious. This is a must-make for any fruit lover!
The last summer salad I made to go along with these delicious Chipotle Shrimp Burritos with Avocado Crema. I would highly recommend these burritos – simple, spicy, and flavorful. I cheated on the avocado crema and simply mixed a store-bought packet of guacamole with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, some extra cilantro and lime. To balance out the spicy shrimp, I kept the salad on the lighter side. This literally came together with the odds and ends left in my fridge, freezer and pantry from the week! The palmitos are acidic, soft, and refreshing. The edamame provides protein and substance, and the corn has a great natural sweetness. The dressing is heavy on lime, giving it a nice, fresh summer flavor. It reminds me of a grown-up version of succotash with a little South American flavor. It could easily be made into a main meal by adding some avocado and increasing the portion size!
Question: How do you stay cool on hot summer days? My favorite response from a friend: “I eat popsicles in my underwear.”
serves 3-4 as a side dish
1 can hearts of palm (palmitos), drained and sliced
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame, cooked according to package instructions
2 ears corn, steamed (about 1 1/2 cups if using frozen)
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, minced
3 scallions, greens and whites, sliced
3 limes, juiced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt and garlic powder (or to taste)
Cook the edamame according to package instructions. Allow to cool. Steam the corn for 3-4 minutes. Once cool, cut the kernels from the cob. Mix the corn, edamame, and sliced palmitos together in a bowl. Add the sliced scallions and minced cilantro. Whisk together dressing of lime juice, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and garlic powder, then stir to combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
You guys remember my awesome roommate, right? She has made her appearance a few times on this blog, mostly during our crazy roommate dinner adventures… You may recall the voluminous winter melon soup mishap or this tasty sugar-free apple crisp we created together. She is getting married in less than a month (yay!) and I was excited to think of creative ways to make her feel loved for her bridal shower a week ago.
First, the non-food details! I had the week leading up to the shower off from school and studying, and so unleashed a bit of my crafty side in making these party favors. The small potted plants were her original idea for wedding favors, but the dirt and the size made them a bit impractical at her venue. Since we held her bridal shower in a park, I decided to make her idea a reality! The 4-inch pots are cheap, about $1 each at the hardware store. The flowers were also bundled in bulk, and so came at a steep discount. The signs also came together easily with some cardstock, popsicle sticks, and gel pens. My grandma and sister were a great help and sat for an hour on the patio with me, making each of the 25 “Let Love Grow Wild” signs in assembly line fashion. I think they came out well, and everyone loved them!
Another paper craft, this time made by a good friend’s mom. On the shower invitations, we asked everyone to bring a recipe for my roommate and her fiance to try out in their new kitchen! We gave her this book to help organize the recipes she has collected, as well as her new ones to try! This book is brilliant: there are blank cardstock pages to paste in printed recipes or ones cut out from magazines, and there are envelopes to store cards from friends and relatives. I have one of my own and I love it! I use it often to write down what I am making for the blog, which helps me to stay organized. If you are interested in getting one for yourself, contact Debbie at Life Is A Special Occasion (email@example.com)!
Now, onto the food. Since it was an afternoon affair, we served light picnic fair. I picked up a veggie platter at Costco, enlisted my wonderful boyfriend to carve me a watermelon basket for fruit salad, and threw together a quick Greek pasta salad. This salad has no mayonnaise, which makes it an ideal picnic and cookout side without fear of food poisoning. It also has some great bold flavors from the onions, feta, and olives. The dressing, borrowed from Ina Garten, brings the whole salad together. I made this in bulk, but halved the recipe below for more family-style cooking. If you are confused on the quantity of ingredients, I used entire standard-size jars of each ingredient labeled in ounces for the bulk recipe. (For example, a 6-oz jar of olives.)
Use your creative license with this salad – add some chickpeas, stir in some celery. Make it yours and bring it to your next summer party!
Greek Pasta Salad
1 boxes whole wheat elbow macaroni
3 oz pitted kalamata olives, drained and sliced
6 oz roasted red peppers, drained and diced
5 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1/2 c feta
1 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (1/2 tbsp fresh)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, slice the olives, red peppers and red onions and add to a large mixing bowl. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and chop the artichoke hearts; add to the bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together the garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Add the dressing and stir until well coated. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, then add the feta. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Nothing screams springtime like fresh ingredients and brightly colored veggies. As soon as the first warm day hits, I am craving salads, slaws, and anything on a grill. These fish tacos fit the bill perfectly! My boyfriend and I recently returned from an amazing Florida vacation, where we visited my grandparents and extended family, explored Ybor City in Tampa, and replenished our Vitamin D levels on the beach.
All of the sun kicked my veggie cravings into overdrive, and so I jumped at the opportunity to make a fun lunch for my grandparents!
Fish tacos seem to have become rather trendy these days, and come in several varieties. My requirements for a good fish taco are as follows: good grilled fish, not the fried stuff. Traditional corn tortillas, not flour. Avocado, in some form. Lots of cilantro. And a good, tangy, fresh cole slaw. Hold the mayo.
Simple, right? Still, many places don’t hold a candle to this homemade version. This recipe was inspired from bits and pieces of many that I have read, taking my favorite parts from all. Feel free to do the same with mine, or try out my version to let me know what you think!
16 corn tortillas
1 lb white fish fillets (use what is local to your region – I have used Cod in NE and tilapia in FL both with great results)
spices: paprika, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, pepper
1 small head purple cabbage, finely sliced (you can also use green, but the color makes these fun)
1 bunch scallion, whites discarded
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp lime juice (I used from a bottle, but fresh is always fun!)
3 tbsp cilantro, finely minced
1 jalapeno, finely minced (use 2 if you like more heat)
for avocado cream:
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 tbsp minced cilantro
Assemble slaw first. Slice cabbage and scallions finely, then mince garlic and jalapenos. Combine with lime juice and minced cilantro. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Combine and refrigerate while preparing other components to allow flavors to combine.
Next, combine avocado, greek yogurt, and remaining cilantro in a food processor. Combine until very smooth. Cover in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Wrap corn tortillas in foil and place in oven to warm while cooking fish. Alternatively, place tortillas individually on a warm griddle after cooking fish for a crispier taco.
To prepare fish, begin by washing filets and patting dry. Season both sides with aforementioned spices according to taste. (More cayenne for the spice lovers, more paprika and chili powder for a deeper and sweeter flavor.) Salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet with a cover. Add fish filets but do not crowd the pan. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip, then cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until fish is flaky and cooked through.
To assemble tacos, take warmed corn tortilla and spoon avocado cream across the bottom. Top with slaw and a small piece of fish. Fold in half and enjoy immediately!
A perk of spending a week at home, besides the aforementioned grill (and spending time with my family and friends, of course!), is full access to my dad’s well-stocked bar. I am not a big drinker, and usually go for a glass of wine or beer before a mixed drink. However, I like playing around with mixed drinks every once in a while! After adapting a sangria recipe and trying out Jenna’s Strawberry Rhubarb Margaritas, I was feeling inspired to dabble a little bit with cooking with liquor. I wanted to grill some fruit for dessert, and decided to spice things up a little bit. The pineapple was inspired by the margaritas, and the peaches combined a collection of flavors that I absolutely love.
The recipes are simple: mix together the alcohol and sugar, pour over the fruit, let it sit for an hour or two (while you are making and cooking dinner), and then throw it on the grill. Make sure the racks are clean, and then place the fruit directly on the grill. Let it cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn over the fruit and drizzle the rest of the marinade over the fruit. Be careful of flame ups, or skip this step entirely. Cook for a few more minutes, and then serve warm. The aroma of this fruit is irresistible – just ask my mom and my sister.
The pineapple flavor is simply enhanced, both by the tequila and by the heat of the grill. The peaches are transformed entirely – the texture softens until the fruit almost melts in your mouth, and the cinnamon, vanilla, and bourbon shine through. We ate these plain, but they would be amazing served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as well! They make for a great sweet note for the end of a light, outdoor, grilled summer meal.
Question: What is your favorite summer dessert?
Tequila Lime Pineapple
1/4 cup tequila
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 pineapple, sliced into rings or spears
Mix together the ingredients, then pour over fresh pineapple slices or spears. Allow to sit for one to two hours. Grill over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.
Bourbon Vanilla Cinnamon Peaches
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
Mix together the ingredients, then pour over peach halves. (Should be enough for up to 5 peaches). Allow to sit for one to two hours. Grill over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.
The one thing I miss most about home, besides my family and friends, of course, is the grill. I do not own a grill in Boston, and love grilled foods during the summer months. There is something about the open flame and cooking outside that makes everything taste better, from mushroom burgers to vegetables to pizza! I made sure to request all of my favorite grilled foods while I was relaxing at home for the week, and my mom and I had a blast grilling together!
My mom has been making grilled pizza for years and it has always been one of my favorite meals. You take homemade pizza dough, cook it directly on the grill for a few minutes on each side, and then top it with your favorite pizza add-ons. (I love making non-traditional pizzas loaded with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and as many veggies as I can think of.) Cooking the dough directly on the grill gives it a great crispiness that mimics brick oven pizzas, but in a unique and homemade way. It can be a challenge to get the crust right, and takes constant attention as to not let it burn. (See the bottom of the post for step-by-step pictures). If this is not your thing, you can always use a pre-cooked crust from the grocery store and then warm it up on the grill after topping it. Give this pizza a try this summer, it is worth the extra step!
1 batch pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
1 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp Balsamic vinaigrette
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 small bunch asparagus spears
1 medium Vidalia onion, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
6 oz goat cheese
2 oz Parmesan cheese
If making dough from scratch, prepare dough. While it is rising, toss the cherry tomatoes with the garlic and 2 tbsp of Balsamic dressing. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus spears. Roast the vegetables in a grill basket for 5-7 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes are wrinkled and ready to burst. Remove from the heat and separate. Cut the asparagus spears into bite sized pieces. In a medium saucepan over the stove, heat olive oil. Add the sliced onion and cook until soft. Add 1 tbsp Balsamic dressing and allow the onions to continue to cook until they are dark brown and slightly caramelized. When ready to create the pizza, form dough into a roughly round pizza shape. Rub both sides with olive oil. Preheat the grill and clean the rack. Place the dough directly on the grill rack. Turn down the flame, close the lid, and allow the dough to cook for 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip the dough, and cook for 3 more minutes. Keep a close eye on the dough at this point – you want it to rise and cook, but not burn. When the dough is cooked, transfer to a large sheet of aluminum foil. Spread with the roasted cherry tomatoes, squishing them slightly to release the juices to form a crust. Layer on the caramelized onions and asparagus pieces. Dot with goat cheese crumbles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Close grill and allow to heat through for 7-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Cut into slices and serve.
There is a standing joke among a few of my friends that I eat “rabbit food.” Just because my favorite food group is vegetables and have compulsive buying problems when produce goes on sale does not mean that my food is fit for bunnies. Vegetables should never be bland! Health food is not the twigs and grass salads of old… Just ask my friends in my Bible study who enjoyed this salad with me! On first glance, it is a healthy shade of brown, and there are pieces of veggies sticking out of every spoonful. However, this salad is addictive. One guy told his wife, “See, I could eat something like this every night of the week!” Everyone loved it so much they asked for the recipe – good thing I took a few pictures to post on my blog. ;)
The salad was inspired by a Google search of Israeli cous cous salads, which led me to the Food Network. It combined some of my favorite summer veggies and flavors, and I could not pass up the craving since summer weather was premature in Boston this past week! (80+ degrees on Thursday, in Boston, in March?!) I decided to adapt it to use roasted instead of grilled veggies, and added some wheat berries for extra texture. This was such a good idea – the chewiness added a lot of depth to the texture of this salad. The result is a filling and healthy salad that will never be mistaken for “rabbit food” again! The leftovers are even better as the flavors come together, and are great over mixed salad greens for a little extra veg!
Great Grains Salad with Summer Vegetables
adapted from this recipe, serves 8-10
2 cups Harvest Grains Isreali cous cous blend
1 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup +3 T Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 T Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 small yellow squash, roughly diced
1 small zucchini, roughly diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 T dried basil
2 T dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, 1/4 cup of the vinegar, and 1 T of the mustard. Stir to combine. Add cut vegetables and coat; let sit for 15-20 minutes. Spread vegetables onto a greased baking sheet, reserving leftover marinade. Roast vegetables for 10-15 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Meanwhile, prepare the cous cous blend and wheat berries, separately according to package instructions. Mix the grains, vegetables and remaining marinade together. Allow to cool. Before serving, mix together the remaining 3 T vinegar with 1 T mustard. Dress the salad, add the dried herbs, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate and serve cold or room-temperature
What would I do without a freezer? As we plunge into chillier weather, I have been freezing summer time favorites to reach for when I am in the depths of the winter time blues. My first piece of frozen summer was the Summer No ‘Smore, and now I have made Freezer Pesto. It is so simple, great for fast lunches and single serving dinners as my basil plant gives up for the winter.
I used what is likely the last of my crop of basil leaves to make my classic pesto. Then I cleaned out an ice cube tray and coated it with cooking spray. I spooned the pesto into 6 of the cubes, and then stashed it in the freezer overnight. The next morning, I covered the cubes to the top with water and then put it back in the freezer. I am hoping that this will help prevent freezer burn! Once fully frozen, I transferred the cubes to a Tupperware to keep for longer (and get my ice cube tray back!)
Each cube is perfect for a single serving of pasta. Simply add it to cooked, hot pasta in the pot and stir over low heat until it is melted and the pasta is well covered. Serve with some freshly grated cheese and enjoy, savoring a bit of summer sunshine and fresh basil in every bite.
In more exciting news, I was given the Liebster Award by Rufus’ Food and Sprits Guide! I love so many of the recipes on their blog and am really excited for this recognition. This award is passed onto bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, and it is my job to pass it on to 5 more deserving blogs! Check out some of these blogging friends and hopefully you will find a new page or two to enjoy reading!
Going Steady – one woman’s ups and downs on a journey to a healthier lifestyle
mixxedtape – great photography and meal ideas from a college girl in Belgium
Little Sacred Space – great thoughts on faith and life from a graduate student living in China
Real Fun Food – a woman’s fun and healthy eats from London
Snotting Black – a college friend’s journey learning Arabic in Cairo, with witty and clever posts about things most of us would overlook on a daily basis (you may have seen her recently on Freshly Pressed!)
Can’t wait to see who you guys pass this along to!
As I mentioned last week, I was lucky enough to celebrate with two of my best friends as they got married this past weekend! They have been dating since we were 15, and it was so great to see two people so in love commit to support each other and spend the rest of their lives together. I was honored to host a rehearsal dinner for them, and pulled together an early Labor Day BBQ reminiscent of so many other backyard hangouts. We enjoyed a simple but delicious menu, enjoyed hanging out with old friends, played lots of ladder ball, made ornaments for their first Christmas tree (leave it to Momma K to always be creative!), and enjoyed a bonfire and ‘smores. It was relaxed and a great way to laugh and get out nervous energy the night before the big day!
The menu was simple, and focused on what I knew to be some of Amanda’s favorite foods. We set out tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole to tide everyone’s hunger when they first arrived from the rehearsal. I mentioned this to the guests once already, but I would be nothing without my mother! We slaved away together cooking and setting up the backyard all morning, and she kept working while I snuck away to the rehearsal. By the time I got back, the backyard was transformed and the dishes were set up and waiting to be filled with chips and guac!
For dinner, we enjoyed classic BBQ food: cheeseburgers (a special Portobello burger for me!), BBQ chicken, grilled veggies, pasta salad, and potato salad.
The grilled veggies are so simple: we mixed red, yellow and orange bell pepper strips with Vidalia onion rings, baby bella mushroom slices, zucchini and yellow squash. Marinated in a bit of canola oil and season salt, we cooked these ahead of time and heated the tin in the oven when the guests arrived!
The potato salad is also a repeat recipe, an original mayo-less salad I made at the start of the summer for a Memorial Day BBQ. I sliced the potatoes into rounds before cooking them this time to avoid scalded fingers, and it worked out perfectly!
The pasta salad is also a modification from another of my recipes. Instead of processing the sun dried tomatoes to make a sauce, I just sliced them thinly. I mixed them with some of the packing oil and fresh olive oil, some basil and combined it all with tortellini and steamed broccoli. Just as good as the original recipe, but more BBQ friendly since it can be made ahead of time and served cold.
For dessert, we enjoyed fruit salad and homemade whipped cream. To make things a little more special, I carved the watermelon into a fruit basket (click here for a how to!), and used a melon baller to scoop out the watermelon and canteloupe so all of the fruit would be round. I even served the whipped cream in the melon halves for fun! Definitely a hit, but not as big of a hit as the bonfire and ‘smores!
I show my love for people by cooking, hosting, and ensuring that everyone has a good time. I know I had a good time, both at the rehearsal and at the wedding! I love these two so much, and can’t wait to share more with you tomorrow!