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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!



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.

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!

Friends, I think we have our first family recipe.

A week or so ago we went on a lovely drive through Niagara County on the hunt for fresh apples, concord grapes, pumpkins, and other seasonal produce. We bought a bushel of the sweetest apples I’ve ever tasted, and I quickly laid plans to make a pie. I’m not actually a big fan of fruit pie, so I wanted to come up with a way to make an apple pie that I would really enjoy. I was inspired by Julia Child’s recipe for a custard apple tart from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I changed a few things and used a different recipe for the crust.

It was so, so good. Creamy custard with sweet apples and just the right amount of spice. I’ll be making this pie every fall.

Apple Custard Pie

1 pie crust (see below)
3-4 of your favorite apples
Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Pie crust:

Use whatever pie crust you like, I’m a fan of Gluten-Free Girl’s pie crust recipe, or for a conventional crust, I really like this one by Smitten Kitchen.

In either case, add a pinch of cinnamon to the dry ingredients for this pie, you’ll notice the difference. Also note, especially if you are using the Smitten Kitchen recipe, you do NOT need to pre-bake the crust. The baking time for the custard will be plenty of time for the crust to bake.

Prepare your pie crust, and roll out to 1/4″ thickness and line your pie pan. Fold over the edges or crimp your crust, and poke some holes in the dough with your fork so it doesn’t puff up in the oven.

To make the custard, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, and vanilla until combined.

Chop 3-4 apples (depending on size – I used 3 large Jonagold apples) into slices and lay them in concentric circles around the pie crust. Sprinkle the apples with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, then pour the custard mixture over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the custard in the center has set.

I’d recommend refrigerating this pie overnight after it cools, it’s absolutely delicious cold.

The whole country is experiencing a pretty rough heat wave this week, and today is the peak day for temperatures here in Buffalo – it’s going to be almost 100! While I have the luxury of working the hottest 7 hours of the day in the air-conditioned Book Arts Center, my poor Rosie is back at the house feeling the heat. I wanted to make sure she was well-hydrated and as comfortable as possible today, so I took a couple measures to help her stay cool. Before heading to bed last night, I filled 3 bowls full of water and put them in the freezer. This morning before I left, I took them out and placed them in shady spots in the kitchen and living room so she will have cool water for most of the day as they melt. I also gave her a few ice cubes this morning, and wiped her fur down with a washcloth soaked in cool water to help her cool off. Last but not least, I made dog popsicles!

I found this recipe in the most recent issue of ReadyMade, and Rosie absolutely loves them.

Frozen Doggy Treats

2 c. low-fat organic vanilla yogurt
1 ripe banana
3 T. flax meal/groud flax seed

Put all the ingredients in your food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour into ice cube trays or small paper cups and freeze overnight. Your pooch will love them!

Keep cool, everybody (and every doggy!)

I love pasta, but summer is not the season for thick red sauce or traditional alfredo sauce. I’ll be posting a few different summer-friendly pasta recipes over the next few weeks as I try different combinations of fresh veggies and herbs.

Linguine with Slow-Cooked Zucchini, Basil, and Cream

(adapted slightly from this recipe on NPR)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut into paper-thin slices
3-4 medium zucchini, sliced into thin coins
1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
Handful large basic leaves, chopped into strips
1 pound dried linguine (regular or your favorite gluten-free variety – mine is Ancient Harvest Quinoa Linguine)
1/2 c. fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 c. fresh grated Romano cheese

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Stir in garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until garlic begin to soften. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the zucchini, salt, and a generous amount of pepper and cook slowly over medium to medium-low heat, gently tossing from time to time, for about 30 minutes or until zucchini are completely tender. The zucchini will be very soft, with some coins breaking up as they cook.

Gently stir in the cream and cook for 5 or so more minutes, or until the cream has thickened slightly. Turn off the heat and add the basil, tossing the sauce gently to incorporate. Reheat the sauce briefly when the pasta is almost done cooking.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente (usually 8-10 minutes). Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta in a colander.

Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss to incorporate the pasta and sauce thoroughly, adding a splash or two of cooking water to loosen. Add the parmigiano and romano cheeses and toss again, adding more cooking water if necessary. Top with a few fresh basil leaves, and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

It’s berry season!

I started off this summer’s canning adventures with a tart, berrylicious blend of blueberries and blackberries and minimal additional sugar.

Black and Blueberry Preserves

Makes 4 pints

8 cups blueberries (cleaned and stems removed)
2 cups blackberries (cleaned and stems removed)
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 lemons

Combine the berries, sugar, and juice of two lemons in a large sauce pot. Cook over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes, mashing with a potato masher to crush berries and release the juices. Skim any foam off the top, ladle preserves into clean half-pint jars, affix lids, and can in a water bath canner.

The set of these preserves is loose with lots of whole berries. I’d recommend it on pancakes or waffles, or with a soft cheese on crackers or a bagel.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I found written on a scrap of paper while cleaning last week. I don’t know the original source, but I’ve edited it slightly and the results were positively delicious.

Banana Bread

1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free blend)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 thoroughly ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan or 9×9 baking pan.
Combine the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg, butter, and vanilla mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the bananas and greek yogurt, and pour evenly into your pan. Bake for 30-60 minutes (varies depending on the pan you use). The top and sides should be a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

If you’d like, add chocolate chips, walnuts, or sliced almonds along with the bananas and yogurt in the final step for some yummy variations.