Tag Archives: summer

It’s Tomato Time! | Homemade tomato sauce & more!

25 Aug

photo 1

Oh hi there! It’s been a while! Hope your summer has been amazing. It’s so hard to believe that it’s nearly September. Wow! But before I go on and on about how I love the Fall, I’ll share a hint of what we’ve been up to recently—lots of cooking/making with fresh local veggies! Hooray!

Our amazing 90-year-old neighbor’s son dropped off a bag of tomatoes from her garden and one of our other neighbors (Ollie’s favorite!) invited us to “go shopping” his garden. What a treat! I’ve eaten my share of fresh garden tomatoes this year but this time we’d gotten so many at once and were a bit overwhelmed. So we decided to make our own red sauce.

This recipe is a mostly scaled down version (with a little twist) of the “Big-Batch Summer Tomato Sauce” from America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. It still made about 3 pints of sauce. We froze some & took some to Ollie’s favorite neighbor but truth be told, I didn’t share any with the other neighbor because she is Italian and I was completely intimidated. I did, however, thank her profusely for the amazing tomatoes the next time I saw her, so don’t worry. 

Also, I’m apologizing in advance for the lack of photos. I took some stellar ones but my phone got completely destroyed (run over by a highway full of cars) and failed to back up that day (Murphy’s Law!). Seriously, people. I know. 

Ingredients

5 lbs of fresh organic tomatoes (in season & garden fresh are the BEST!)
2 Tbsp of tomato paste (we didn’t have any so see how I improvised below)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of organic cane sugar (you could use raw honey or brown sugar, too — or omit it altogether)
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 Tbsp fresh)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar

Steps

1. Oh crap! = The realization that you don’t quite have all of the ingredients to make what you want to make. What went wrong this time? Well, we didn’t have any tomato paste. I researched a bit online and most sources said to cook down (reduce) tomato sauce. Honestly, we were making 2 other things that night and I didn’t feel like waiting for a can of tomato sauce to reduce on the stovetop BEFORE I could make the tomato sauce. Then I remembered that I had a package of organic sun-dried tomatoes and I found this recipe for Sun-dried Tomato Puree (I followed the recipe exactly but omitted the garlic cloves & recommended additions because I wanted to keep it simple since I was adding it to a sauce recipe. I also don’t think I used quite as much olive oil as the 1/2 cup in the recipe when all was said & done).

2. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat and prepare an ice bath (ice & cold water) in a large bowl. Remove core from tomatoes and score a small X in the base of each. In batches, with a slotted spoon, lower tomatoes into boiling water & cook just until skins are loose, about 15-45 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to the ice bath to cool (about 2 minutes). Take tomatoes out of the ice bath and remove loosened tomato skins (they will fall right off like magic!). 

3. Process garlic in a food processor until minced, about 10 seconds. Leave the garlic in the food processor.  Process peeled tomatoes, in batches, until almost smooth, 15-20 seconds. It’s okay that your garlic got a little more processed in the first batch of tomatoes. They’re all going to hang out together in step 4 anyway. Transfer each batch of pureed tomatoes to a large pot (we used a dutch oven). 

4. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomato puree (substituted for the tomato paste), basil and salt to the tomatoes and bring to simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened and reduced by 1/2  (about 1.5-2 hours). Stir vinegar and sugar into pot, seasoning with additional sugar to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. You could easily can the sauce, but we opted to pour it into pint size mason jars & freeze what we knew we wouldn’t give away or eat in a couple of days.

Notes

This sauce was really tasty and fresh! While it took a while to make a lot of that time was simmering time (read: time when you can be doing lots of other things!).

It was the perfect recipe to use all of the fresh tomatoes that we’d never have eaten in time.

If you don’t like tomato seeds in your sauce (or you have picky kids), consider straining the seeds out before pouring the finished sauce into mason jars…or better yet…cut each tomato in 1/2 and scoop the seeds out with your thumb after step 2 above. 

Beatin’ the Heat | Frosty Pup Treat Recipe

3 Jun

Ollie is 4!

It is hard to believe that Ollie turned four yesterday. It seems like only yesterday I found a post on Petfinder about a tiny special needs Red Boston Terrier, named Brass Monkey, when in all reality is was in the Fall of 2009. Truth is, if a good Samaritan hadn’t found a Craigslist ad posted in Texas, by a puppy mill breeder then he wouldn’t be with us today. We love our little guy, and he has brought tons of laughs, kisses, and joy to more than just our tiny little family

Kate and I  have little traditions we do to celebrate the pups and Sitar’s birthdays. Stevie always gets a real balloon that he loves, while Ollie on the other hand is afraid of balloons so each year Kate humors me and draws a birthday balloon for Ollie. We tape it above his crate on the wall! We also bake birthday treats for them, there is a great Pupcakes recipe in our blog that Kate posted and the pups adore 🙂 This year is was miserably hot in our apartment and I really didn’t want to subject any of us to turning the oven on, so I came up with a frosty birthday treat recipe for the pups that they inhaled.

frosty treat prep

Ollie’s Frosty Pup Treats
makes 8 frozen treats

Ingredients

1 – 6 oz container of Chobani Vanilla Yogurt*
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of 100% pure canned pumpkin

*If you want to control the sugar content in this recipe, just substitute Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt. Dogs don’t need the extra sugar but we made these as an extra special treat so I sweetened them with the Vanilla Chobani.

Steps

1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium size bowl

2. Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan.

3. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling cups a generous half full. (I got 8 frosty treats out of my batter.)

4. Place in the freezer, our treats were frozen solid in 2 hours.

frozen treat unwrapped

Notes

  • These treats are great for pups with allergies, Stevie is intolerant to all things poultry, they are vegetarian, wheat, and soy free.
  • If you have difficulty removing the frozen treats from the muffin pan, just flip the pan over and run warm water on it for a few seconds.
  • The cupcakes wrappers are easy to remove and just peel off, no need for non-stick spray.
  • If you opt to use the Chobani Plain Yogurt, add some sweetness using molasses approximately 2 teaspoons should do the trick!
  • If you are looking for other flavors to mix it up for your beloved pups, try subbing the pumpkin out with an equal amount of sweet potato, peanut butter, or banana.

patiently waiting

This was the easiest birthday recipe I have created in a long time.

frosty treat massacre

On the other end of it, I think these birthday treats were gobbled up the quickest as well, ha! Stevie & Ollie devoured and approved.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes | Versatile & Easy!

28 Apr
tomatoes, olive oil and S&P waiting to be roasted

tomatoes, olive oil and S&P waiting to be roasted

The warmer New England weather is starting to remind me of the summer foods I’ve missed all winter. Top of my list? Fresh tomatoes!

Grocery stores have been taunting me with tomato sales but I know they’re not yet in season. There is nothing quite like a just-picked tomato at the height of its season (or any produce, for that matter). My dad grew them nearly every summer in the garden when we were kids. He’d have competitions with a fellow gardner friend and I have vivid memories of secret tricks and strange apparatuses surrounding the tomato plants in the garden. My mom would make tomato and cheese sandwiches for us to enjoy at the peak of tomato season — hearty white bread spread with Miracle Whip then stacked with layers of sliced tomatoes and cheddar cheese & a little sprinkle of S&P. Yum…summer in sandwich!

So back to my point….since cherry tomatoes have been on sale quite a bit, Jess has been buying them. They were fine tossed into my lunch salads but I wanted a way to make them more delicious. Flour Bakery (a Boston area delight) is smart — and their BLT is the best BLT I’ve ever had in my life. I dream about it.  One of their secrets? They roast the tomatoes when they’re not in season in order to bring out their yumminess. Roasting also rids them of that gross mealy texture that often plagues out-of-season tomatoes. The recipe I used as a guide states, “roasting concentrates their flavor, turning the tomatoes into savory, tender little umami bombs”. Genius, right? It’s very easy & roasted tomatoes are a perfect addition to any recipe, sandwich, salad, pizza, pasta/rice salad, etc. — the possibilities are endless. We added them to a homemade pizza with oven roasted rosemary lemon turkey breast and banana pepper rings.

fresh_to_roasted

top: before roasting, middle: after first 20 minutes, last: after roasting

Oven Roasted Tomatoes (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen: DIY Cookbook, Oven Dried Tomatoes)

Ingredients

12 ounces – 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (grape tomatoes would work fine, too)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes and lightly pat dry with a clean dish towel.
  3. Cut each tomato in 1/2 lengthwise & toss into a small bowl (with enough room for tossing later).
  4. Add olive oil, salt & pepper to the bowl and toss to evenly coat the tomatoes.
  5. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or aluminum foil) for easy clean-up. Place a wire rack on top of the prepared baking sheet and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  6. Place the seasoned tomatoes on the rack cut side down (not all of mine were facing down & they turned out fine).
  7. Place tomatoes into the oven for  20 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees.
  9. Use a fork to carefully flip the tomato halves cut side up and remove any tomato skin that has fallen off. If all of your tomatoes still have the skin on them, there’s no need to remove it since cherry tomatoes have such tender skin.
  10. Place them back in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven & allow to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

roasted tomatoes standing by to be the next pizza topping

roasted tomatoes standing by to be the next pizza topping

Making & Baking Our Way into Fall | Pics & Links

3 Sep

Oh hi! Here’s what we’ve been up to (a meaty post with pictures & links!)…

Savoring summer, time with Kate’s dad & the best lobstah roll ever (PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet).

Making pickles! Refrigerator style using this recipe and farm fresh pickling cukes from a farm near Jess’s home town. We added cloves of garlic & black whole peppercorns to each jar. We also made a spicy batch for our neighbor by tossing in a sliced jalapeno from our container garden (YAY!). We’ve been eating them on EVERYTHING (pictured below on turkey sandwiches).

Salivating over a new issue of Bon Appetit and celebrating awesome neighbors with this delightful coffee cake. Toss blueberries in panko breadcrumbs? SURE!

Here’s what the blueberry coffee cake looked like sliced (just before it got hand delivered to our favorite neighbors). This Instagram filter makes it look straight out of my mom’s 1970 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part I! Long overdue wedding card/art piece for friends Emily & Chris. Those are heart shaped bits I cut out of their save-the-date & invitations. I love sewing paper.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part II! Finally getting around to finishing this advent calendar project for 2 very special little boys (yes, that’s 48 little fabric bags). Promised last year that I’d make these & we’d fill them with goodies each year…literally the gift that keeps on giving! The first time I stumbled across this project on Lansdowne Life, I obsessed over the adorable vintage looking fabric…to die for, right?!? Can’t wait to fill the bags with goodies & send them off. Oh & those pinking shears were an amazing vintage find at a little consignment shop on the Cape. 

Officially launching Opal & Ollie on Etsy. YAY! A selection of my etched glass mason jars are also available at Magpie in Davis Square & On Centre in Jamaica Plain.

Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

Picnic Food Pick | Hummus & Flatbread

7 Jul

This is a fairly simple & fast recipe that’s fun to make and take to a gathering any time of the year. But both the hummus & the flatbread will survive quite well sitting out on a picnic table in hot summer temps (unlike your gran’s famous potato salad!).

We brought this to our friends’ 4th of July BBQ (along with our appropriately patriotic berry salad & frozen chocolate dipped bananas on sticks). The hummus & flatbread made a perfect party platter with the simple addition of a bowl of baby carrots & disks of seedless cukes.

Hummus

Ingredients
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed & drained

1/3 cup tahini (can be found in most grocery stores in the “ethnic food” section)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 3 juicy lemons…I like my hummus lemony so I’m a little heavy handed with the lemon)
1 tsp salt
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil (I used olive oil our neighbor brought us from Italy!)

Steps
1. In a food processor, blend chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt & garlic until smooth.

2. With the food processor on, stream in the oil (through that little shoot in the top of the processor) & blend until well incorporated.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Maker tip: If you cook a lot with garlic, I highly recommend investing in one of these stainless-steel babies. They squish, I mean press, the garlic perfectly every time, are super easy to clean (my favorite!) & save your wrists from wrestling with presses that pale in comparison.

Multigrain Flatbread

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Then in a large bowl, combine the flours, oil, baking soda & salt. Add enough buttermilk (I used it all) to make a stiff dough.

2. Knead dough for 30 seconds on a well-floured surface.
3. Return dough to bowl & cover with a damp paper towel/clean kitchen towel to prevent drying.
4. Roll 1/4 cup handfuls of dough into a ball & pat into a flat circle.
5. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into 10 inch circles (mine were definitely NOT 10 inches — probably more like 8 but they were still nice & thin). Oh and they will not be perfect circles. That’s okay — we’re making something homemade so it’s nice if it looks rustic. That’s the beauty of it, people.

side note: my Uncle Bob made that amazingly beautiful cutting board!

6. Place the circles of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or preheated pizza stone (I used the latter) & score each little round of dough to make little triangular pie slices. Scoring the dough isn’t as hard as it may sound — just use a really sharp knife & lightly drag it across the dough (be careful not to cut all the way through). See picture below.


7. Repeat steps 4-6 with the remaining dough.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 8-10 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack briefly before breaking along scored lines.

I heaped the flatbread wedges in the center of a clean kitchen towel & tied the corners together for easy transportation on the tray of hummus & veggies. 

Happy dipping & eating!

Anytime Appetizer | Make Your Own Herbed Olives

25 Jun

As a child my summer days and nights were spent surrounded by adults, most notably my grandparents and my aunt. Entertaining, screen house entertaining that is, was in my family’s blood. I remember the roar of the laughter, the smell of the barbecue and the tiny ceramic vegetable shaped trays filled with “pickies” lining the tables. Pickies are what my family calls appetizers, small bites of goodness served to tide you over for the meal. In the summers there were a variety of them, most notably stuffed celery, crabbies (that can be another blog post on its own), and black and green olives.

I never quite have figured out if the word “pickies” is a New England thing, growing up north of Boston and spending summers at Hampton Beach, or if it was just a word that only my family used, which now I have started using with my own little family.

Here’s an easy crowd pleasing pickies recipe that could be made year round, although I’m sure it would be a Summer hit. *screen house not included*

Lemony Herbed Olives

Ingredients

1 jar Organic Green Olives (I used Cat Cora’s Kitchen)
1/2 fresh lemon
Sprigs of fresh Rosemary (from our container garden)
Sprigs of fresh Thyme (from our container garden)
2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper
Organic California Olive Oil (or whatever your favorite good quality olive oil is)

Steps

1. Drain the liquid from the jar of olives and place olives in a small bowl.
2. Set aside olives and roughly chop the rosemary and thyme.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and smash with the edge of your chef’s knife to release the oils and flavor.
4. Toss the olives with the rosemary, thyme, and garlic in the small bowl.
5. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of the lemon over the olive mixture.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Slice the remaining 1/4 of the lemon and toss with the olive mixture.
8. Spoon mixture into the now empty jar that the olives were purchased in.
9. Don’t be afraid to really squeeze everything in there, it will be a tight fit.
10. Once the jar is filled, pour the olive oil into the jar filling it so the olives are covered in oil.

There you have it, your very own custom herbed olive mix!

Notes:

  •  You can use any combination of herbs that you wish. Be creative!
  • The cuter the label, the better they taste.. ok they taste great regardless, but cute labels don’t hurt.
  • Because I used fresh herbs that we are growing and doctored up store-bought olives, this crowd pleasing recipe is quite thrifty.
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