I like to cook – so I’m usually not one to shy away from complicated dishes and spending some good time in the kitchen. But all of that goes out the window (as I head out the door) when it comes to summer. My three commandments of summer food:
The first two are key to spend more time in the third. In the summer, I am outside as much as humanly possible. I do not have a clean house, clean car – my clothes may be clean, but they’re certainly not put away until the first major thunderstorm rolls in.
Which it did the morning Erin invited me and a variety of other Grand Rapids bloggers to her rooftop patio for a Slaw Social sponsored by Reser’s. (Luckily, the sun was out by party time.) Here’s the thing – I don’t love most cole slaw, because as a general rule, I don’t like mayo. Reser’s slaw has some, but is actually really mustard forward (and also has ketchup, pickles, peppers and cabbage). On the first taste, it reminded me of my Granny’s potato salad. So I thought, “How can I make potato salad cocktail party material?”
Four ingredients and thirty minutes later, I had something simple and simply delicious – and still had enough time to put away my clothes before the rain let up.
1 tub Reser’s Stadium Cole Slaw
1 2-pound bag mini potatoes (I used red skins, any will do)
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Bake the potatoes (I did mine in the microwave in about 10 minutes).
Scoop out the potato flesh into a larger bowl. Add the cole slaw and mix.
Sprinkle the potato skins with salt and smoked paprika.
Fill the potato skins with the mixture, then sprinkle with paprika and the sliced green onions.
Enjoy somewhere outdoors and fabulous!
*Reser’s kindly provided both samples and a stipend for supplies, but as always, all thoughts are my own.
Summertime dinnertime – it doesn’t get better than sitting on the back deck with a delicious, light dinner, a glass of cold white wine and a good book. Tomato season is almost upon us, and I implore you to give this potentially wacky combination a try. Initially, the combo of tomato, peach and burrata seemed a little too far out (even though tomatoes are technically a fruit). But as much as I hate to say it, I was wrong. Except I don’t really hate it, because this is light, refreshing and the perfect “celebrate the best of summer” dinner. This serves one generously, probably two in reality (I had leftovers).
When Erin said she wanted to have a party to celebrate the end of summer (because we’re just that kind of masochistic here in Michigan) on her rooftop deck, I said “What can I bring?” Well, it turns out the lovely people at La Terra Fina* wanted to step in and help with that. They sent me two dips – their Spinach and Artichoke (the greek yogurt version) and the Lemon Pepper Asiago. I’m a little embarrassed at the ease of what resulted, but that speaks to the quality of these dips.
The first dish (I can’t even call it a recipe guys, it’s cheating) is spinach and artichoke stuffed mushrooms. I cleaned the mushrooms, pulled out the stems, stuffed them with the dip and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The end. Good hot, good cold, good anywhere in between. One tub of dip took about 20 oz of mushrooms, give or take depending on size. I had a little leftover, and tossed with sautéed mushrooms the next day for dinner – also wholly good, and holy easy.
The second was a bit more…hairy. I have a pizza I love with a goat cheese lemon base, zucchini and summer squash, so I thought I’d reproduce here with a zucchini beer bread (since GR is Beer City) and spread the lemon pepper dip on top. Well. I enjoy under-baked bread as much as the next person, but this took it to new heights – 1.5 hours in the oven and we were not spreading anything on that bread. Plan B, formulated while I’m in nothing but a towel, hair and makeup not done, supposed to be downtown in 15 minutes (it’s a 15 minute drive y’all). Buy flatbread. Spread with dip. Top with sautéed summer squash. Done.
As it turns out, summer came out in all her glory to big farewell – good friends, good food, great views.
*La Terra Fina was kind enough to supply the ingredients, but as always, all thoughts are my own.
My love language is gifts, and I’m huge on thanking people – for a job well done, for a generous favor, for opening their home.
Meals are my favorite gift – not just because I love to cook, but because I love to see people enjoy something that only exists in the moment. This meal was a thank you for hosting, made alongside my best friend, with wine and wonderful company.
Dinner was a relatively quiet affair, punctuated by good stories, laughter and murmurs of “This is SO GOOD.”
Serves 4 generously, up to 8 as a lighter meal.
8 tortillas (we used medium-sized flour, these would be great with corn, too)
3 pounds crab, picked over for shells (or cracked yourself)
Your favorite taco seasoning (I used a mix of chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, paprika, lime and oregano)
4 T butter
2-4 cups queso (depending on how much you love cheese).
1/4 head of red cabbage
2 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)
1/2 a fresh pineapple
1/2 a red onion
1 bunch cilantro
Juice and zest of 2 limes
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c olive oil
2 T blackberry jam
1 T chili powder
1 t salt
Heat a medium sauté pan over edo high heat. (We used cast iron.)
Sauté the crab with a bit of butter and your seasoning mix. (You could also just stir the crab and mix together – I just like the flavor development the heat brings.)
Butter the tortillas on the outside (you could also just spray the pan with Pam, if you wanted to cut the calories).
Add a bit of cheese to the inside of one tortilla, spread with crab, then top with cheese. (This helps the tortilla stick to both sides.)
Fry for 3 minutes on either side.
Keep warm in the oven until all the quesadillas are done.
Serve with slaw and quacamole.
Shred or dice fist six ingredients – add to a large bowl.
Whisk last 6 ingredients together, toss with the slaw.
Listen, y’all know I love cheese more than my luggage. But sometimes, especially after an epic cheese-fest, I recognize the need to cut back. A little. I stumbled across this recipe for vegan palak paneer on Food 52 and thought “Well, I think I hate tofu, but with curry…”
Turns out, curry covers everything – I actually like this dish just as much, if not more, with tofu vs paneer (plus, tofu is easier to find.) Even better, I discovered recently that the tofu isn’t even necessary! Less palak paneer then and more…Indian creamed spinach?…not the same ring, but still delicious.
Especially since this was part of a larger Indian dinner, I figured the protein wasn’t needed. I also used fresh spinach because I got a great deal at the Costco, but would absolutely use frozen in this unless you hit a sale. (2.5 lbs, for real, is a lot of spinach.) One last note on coconut milk – I have discovered, as of late, the magic that is full-fat coconut milk. It’s so…CREAMY. Which sounds dumb and obvious, but I swear, it’s a little mind-blowing. So since you’re being so good about eating your greens – and coconut oil is health food and all – I’m saying go for it.
2.5 lbs of fresh spinach or 4 10 oz bags of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (you are cooking the spinach quite a bit, so frozen is really fine here.)
2 15 oz cans coconut milk (I prefer using at least one full fat, as it really adds to the creaminess of the dish)
1 block extra firm tofu, cubed – optional (I have included it in the past, but didn’t here as I served it with another protein.)
1 onion, diced
2 T coconut oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
3 T curry
salt and pepper to taste
If using fresh spinach, cook in batches until wilted down, squeezing as much excess water from cooked spinach as possible. If using frozen, defrost and squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.
Heat coconut oil over medium heat, and saute onion until browned, 8-10 minutes.
Add other spices and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add spinach back in, along with coconut milk and tofu (if using). Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
I find myself, in general, super skeptical of fad diets. Oh don’t misunderstand – I’m not judging. I’ve tried the Jillian Michales 7-day detox water, whipped up more than one green smoothie and hopped on the spiralizer train. I’ve done chocolate brownie date bites and powdered peanut butter and, in fits of complete self-loathing, stevia brownies.
Some of these things have been total disasters (stevia’s aftertaste makes me very skeptical of its natural claim), but others were a pleasant surprise. (The brownie bites, while not brownie-ish at all, were nevertheless good, slightly chocolatey and imparted a fair amount of energy.) Spiralized veggies and spaghetti squash can be pretty good in certain dishes, and I’ve even found tolerance for the occasional green smoothie (though I’m always scavenging for a snack by 10.) Cauliflower rice was another fad I was prepared to hate. But the man loves him some fried rice, and while I’m really good about veggies in my diet, he is…less so.
Turns out, we like it a lot! (In fact, it was declared “one of the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen” from a man who would eat Cincinnati chili and shells and cheese until the end of time.) Like veggie ‘noodles,’ I would argue it’s no replacement for the real thing – but when you’re using rice as a vehicle to sop up something else – like in the Indian feast pcitured above – it’s perfect.
1 head cauliflower, chopped roughly
2 T oil of choice (cater to cuisine)
3-4 T spices as needed
A food processor
Pulse cauliflower florets in food processor until pebble-sized.
Saute in oil for 7-10 minutes, checking texture (this is really a preference thing, however done you like it is how done it should be).
Add in spices of choice and saute 1-2 more minutes.
Everyone has that ‘favorite restaurant dish’ – every time you order something else (because variety is spicy and all that) it’s good, maybe even really good – but nothing lives up to that one amazing thing. At Graydon’s Crossing in Grand Rapids, that dish (for me) is the Bali pulled pork. I didn’t even consider I could attempt it at home until I was messing around on Pinterest. (See, sometimes those rabbit holes pay off.)
This is a slow cooker recipe, which means it’s pretty hands off and simple. You might even be tempted to skip the browning step, but in Indian cooking, toasting the spices really does make a huge difference. This recipe was part of a larger Indian feast, so I focused solely on meat and seasoning here – if you were serving it alone, I’d serve pita-like with naan and pickled veggies.
Recipe loosely adapted from http://myheartbeets.com/indian-style-pulled-pork/