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The perfect Sunday starts with a maple doughnut from the country doughnut cart, hot coffee, and a quiet spot to enjoy it all with my guys.

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I am always looking for great summer recipes. I get into a cooking rut every summer around this time – when the temperature reaches 90 degrees for days, the lake calls louder than the oven. This year in addition to cold salads, I’ve been on the lookout for simple sandwiches. This one is fantastic: no cooking (grilling optional), and it’s healthy, filling, and flavorful.

Adapted from here.

Smashed Chick Pea & Avocado Salad

1 can or 1-1/2 cups cooked chick peas
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup (or so) chopped green onion
Small handful of cilantro
Squeeze of fresh lime juice from 1/2 lime
Salt & pepper to taste
Broccoli, bean, or alfalfa sprouts
Unsliced fresh bread or baguette

Serves 3-4 as a main dish

Slice your bread or baguette into think 1″ slices. I would recommend drizzling them with olive oil and toasting them on the grill until the edges are golden brown.

Peel and prepare the avocado by slicing into approx. 1″ cubes. Add the avocado, chick peas, green pepper, cilantro in a food processor or large bowl. If you’re using the food processor, pulse for a few seconds only- it’s best with large chunks, not puréed. If you prefer the manual method, mash all ingredients listed together with a fork or potato masher until combined. Add a squeeze of line juice and season with salt & pepper.

Spread a whole bunch onto your grilled bread, top with sprouts (spinach or arugula would be nice here too) and enjoy!

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My usual: steel cut oats with brown sugar, dried fruit, coconut or almond milk, and coffee.

My favorite: French toast made with homemade rustic white bread and topped with some Vermont maple syrup (grade B for life!)

For Stuart: Baked eggs over sweet potato and walnut bread with maple spread, rosemary, and fresh goat cheese.

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A diner breakfast, the best donut ever (currant rhubarb jelly with espresso glaze) from King Bakery donut cart, farmer’s market flowers, my loves, walking around town, Chinese fortune matched from the Cambridge thrift store.

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I made this cold lentil salad from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian recently to serve for dinner on an unseasonably warm day (among many we’ve had this spring). I love a good cold, hearty salad and I’ve been on a bit of a lemon kick lately. Lemony didn’t even begin to describe this salad. Following the original recipe, it was totally over the top. It tasted a little too much like sunshine and sweettarts, so I adjusted it a bit to make it more savory and subtle. The best thing about this recipe is its simplicity. You may even have all of the ingredients in your pantry right now.

This would be best served as a summer side dish with some sandwiches or grilled corn on the cob. It would also be perfect served on warm pita with a bit of goat cheese. Let the warm weather cooking begin!

Lemony Lentil Salad

1 cup dried lentils, any variety
1 large lemon
1 large shallot, chopped (red onion would also work)
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Bay leaf
Fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add lentils, bay leaf, and garlic, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook lentils until softened but not burst or mushy, about 8 minutes.

While the lentils cook, prepare the dressing by combining the juice of one lemon with the olive oil, chopped shallot, chopped green onion, a healthy shake of black pepper, and a bit of salt to taste.

Drain the excess water from the cooked lentils and toss with the dressing while still warm. Adjust seasoning to taste and allow to chill for a few hours before serving.

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This morning we took a short drive into Troy for some amazing Italian baked treats and a little thrifting. I picked up lots of pretty white ceramic dishes, a beautiful stoneware tray, a thermal pitcher, a bread pan, a globe, and a few other odds & ends for exactly $20. Plus Stu found a gorgeous turquoise blue vintage Schwinn that’s just the right height. A good Sunday morning if you ask me!

PS – If you’re following me on instagram you probably already saw these, and if you’re not and you want to follow along – my username is jessochka.

A few weeks ago I joined lots of lovely ladies in Vestal to celebrate my dear friend Julia’s bridal shower. It was a wonderful day, full of laughter, friendship, family, and wedding chitchat. Before the shower, Julia’s sister Laura sent an invitation to everyone with a note requesting that they bring a special recipe as part of a community shower gift. In keeping with the theme, the sweet favor bags Laura assembled contained a special recipe from her to all of us. The recipe was for a lemon icebox pie, and I couldn’t wait to give it a try. I’m not a big pie-maker or pie-eater, but I love a good cold pie. I made it as soon as I got home, and it was positively delicious. Only one problem: it never actually became pie. I think it may have been my embarrassing inability to patiently whip cream to the proper consistency, but it just never set. Even in a cup, it was one of the best pies I’ve ever had. Turns out, I’ve got a bit of a thing for lemon. It was especially good for breakfast with a a hot cup of coffee and a baby on my lap. I’m going to give it another try soon and post it here soon after so you can all experience the lemony goodness of Laura’s lemon icebox pie!

I’ve decided to start a new little series called “lunch for one.” Since becoming a mama, I find I need to prepare at least one, often two, meals a day for just myself. Because I’m breastfeeding, it’s essential for me to eat balanced meals rich in protein, complex carbs, and fiber (though I believe every woman, mama or not, deserves good nutrition). These nutritious meals also need to be easily (read: quickly) prepared while tending to a two-month old. I often find myself looking for recipes and lunch inspiration for these meals, so I thought I’d share my own now and then in case anyone else is looking for ideas. These recipes are not intended to be very scientific or precise, just nutritious, simple meals that come together quickly.

Today’s quick and simple lunch – oat bran penne with wilted baby spinach and chick peas sauteed in garlic oil.

1 c. penne pasta (I chose oat bran for its protein, fiber, and lower gluten content, you could use any type you prefer)
1 handful baby spinach
1 15.5oz can of chick peas (you’ll use about half)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
Ground pepper to taste

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and cook your penne. Drain and thoroughly rinse chick peas in hot water. In a small sautee pan over medium-low heat, pour olive oil and allow it to heat up. Sautee garlic until fragrant, just a minute or two. Add chick peas to the oil and sautee for 5 minutes or so. I used about half the can of chick peas and put the rest in the refrigerator to roast tomorrow for an afternoon snack. Add a handful of baby spinach and leave over the heat until spinach is wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Drain your pasta, and add to the sautee pan. Toss the penne with the chick peas and spinach, add ground black pepper to taste, and serve.

I love minestrone soup. I’ve made it at home a few times, but I’ve never really loved the results. Finally, success! This soup was amazing, and I’m really quite sad it’s all gone. I think the essential things that made it so delicious were using fresh homemade stock, adding a little spice, and lots of fresh herbs. Enjoy!

Spicy Minestrone Soup

3 cups vegetable stock
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I put mine through the food processor because I’m not crazy about huge tomato chunks)
1 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
A teaspoon or so each of fresh thyme, rosemary, and/or sage
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (adjust to your own taste)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups cooked pasta in a small shape
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Basil sprigs, garnish, optional

In a slow cooker, combine stock, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, herbs, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add cooked pasta, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with salt, black pepper, and more crushed red pepper if you like spicy. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top, and garnish with basil if you’d like.

A couple of mornings ago I made a big batch of homemade vegetable stock. I love what a homemade stock can do for a simple soup, and it sure beats the sodium-packed store bought versions. Not to mention it makes your house smell wonderful while it cooks.

Simple Vegetable Stock

1-2 onions
2-3 carrots
2 stalks celery
1 bay leaf
Fresh herbs – I use thyme and rosemary, sage would be nice too
Small bunch of parsley
1 teaspoon or so whole peppercorns

Roughly chop all your veggies and toss them in a large stock pot with the herbs and peppercorns. Cover with water- if you use less water, the stock will have a stronger flavor, with more water it will be lighter. I prefer a lighter stock so I poured about 3 quarts of water into the pot.

Cook covered on high until the stock boils, then reduce to medium-low and allow to cook for about an hour. Strain your stock in a fine mesh colander or cheesecloth. Use immediately, or separate into quart-sized jars or other containers. Allow to cool and stick the extra in the freezer for future soups!