Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Salad Roundup...

Who wants to spend time at the stove when it's hot outside and there are so many fun things to get busy with?  Come summer,  I happily take a bit of a step back from the typical dinner fare we know and love throughout the rest of the year and cook more "picnic" style around here.  Healthy and filling salads become a go-to for me, as I'd much rather eek out more time at the beach with the girls, go on a picnic to any of the array of summer movies and outdoor concerts in the area, have fun out on our bikes, or let myself get totally engrossed in a great book.  I especially love it when a salad is hearty enough to stand up over night in the refridgerator - we are not afraid of leftovers around here.  Here's a sneak peak at my summer salad line up; variations on a Cobb Salad, must try this Mango and Red Pepper Salad, this Bok Choy Slaw, any sort of cold Rice Noodle Salad with a ginger dressing and slivered veggies, this Fennel Salad is calling me to try out, as is this simple Green Salad With Cherries, this Quinoa Salad is a favorite, a simple green salad loaded with nuts, beans or chicken, and all those little bits of veg needing to get used up, salsa (can we call salsa a salad?), and this Corn Salad looks like it would be a perfect picnic salad along side some sliced meats and cheese.  Last night we feasted on a cold rotisserie chicken, spinach topped with this Garbanzo Salad, and some left over chips and salsa (my oldest is our in-house salsa maker and we happily reap the benefits of such).

Yesterday my youngest came up with a new creation for lunch that I am sure will make a repeat visit as she happily exclaimed she'd take it to school for lunch any time.  She sautéed up a sliced zucchini in olive oil then added some chopped up roasted red pepper, a few cherry tomatoes from the garden and bits of leftover chicken, then she topped it with a few shavings of parmesan cheese.  Even my mostly vegetarian daughter enjoyed it.  We ate it warm as is, but I think it could be great cold with your favorite pasta as a salad or atop some fresh summer greens.  What I really loved about it was that she took a recipe of interest and shifted it to suit what we had on hand and our own personal tastes.  As a parent, one of my personal goals has always been to build a sense of competency in my girls around preparing good food for themselves.  I want them to have the ability to walk into the kitchen, scope the scene and make something tasty and relatively healthful for themselves.  I think we are on our way as the oldest has become my go-to condiment maker (salsa, pesto, guacamole etc...) and has really started developing an interest in baking and now the younger one is building confidence and skills too, she did not shy away from the huge knife I handed her to chop veggies and meat with yesterday.  Though I can't lie, I'd be tickled pink if they found the joy and sense of creative outlet in the kitchen that I do, mostly I want them to be able to feed themselves and those around them well without a box of this or that or a phone to call for delivery.

Well, back to those summer salads, do you change up your typical dinner routines this time of year too?  If so what are your favorite summer salads?  I'd love to hear what you all are living off this summer, I am sure there are so many possibilities that I haven't even thought of yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Freezing Fruit...

Oh my, doesn't all that fruit make your mouth water.  I love the bounties of summer, especially the complete abundance of freshly picked fruit.  With what we've got growing in our own garden like rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries, the fact that I can't pass up a local roadside fruit stand to save my soul and that we love to go berry picking each summer there is always an overwhelming amount of fruit in our kitchen throughout the summer.  Berry picking has become a summer tradition for us, what a fun day out and the eat-as-you-go policy that our favorite raspberry farm has is just what the kids need to keep them interested and motivated to fill those boxes.  We went out with friends recently and between the girls and I we picked over twenty pounds of raspberries.  It was unusually hot in our neck of the woods that day, topping 90 degrees, so we had to call it after just an hour or so.  Once we got home we gorged ourselves on berries for days, but knowing that it was not likely we could actually consume our weight in berries before they turned into sad mushy boxes of goo I got right to work, baking some into muffins and baked oatmeal, cooking some into jam, and freezing what I could to tide us through winter.  I love freezing fruit!  It is as low maintenance as it comes in the preserving world and the results don't disappoint.  The method I have settled on with greatest success is to line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and lay the fruit in a single layer on it.  For things like raspberries, small strawberries, blackberries and blueberries I keep the fruit whole and for stone fruits and larger strawberries I cut them in half or wedges.  After the fruit is arranged I pop the tray in the freezer for a few hours or more likely overnight.  Once everything is frozen solid I fill gallon ziplock bags with the frozen fruit and label with date and name of fruit.  So simple and yet it yields such pleasure throughout winter.  Then when you have an inkling for a raspberry/rhubarb crisp or some strawberries over yogurt it is as simple as a quick defrost and you are good to go.  So when you see that fruit stand don't hesitate to stop and pick up a flat or two of fruit, if you aren't into canning or making jam at the very least you can freeze a few gallons for later.