Summer Vegetable Tart

Obtainable. Obtainable and overwhelming. That pretty much describes this summer. We can obtain great memories this year by creating a fun summer in spite of all of the social distancing. It just takes a lot of inspired thought to reconsider what we think it should look like. To open our minds to something different. To rethink and redo all the plans, goals and ideas I had for this summer is so sad, it’s incredibly overwhelming at times. Especially when the zucchini I planted has failed to produce and the rabbits gnawed the tops off all the green bean plants and the slugs….aaagh! the slugs! It just adds to the sadness and the sense of failure. Damn it. The only way to soothe this achy heart is with a full stomach.

A crispy crust with some cheese and herbs is all I really want. But then all there are a lot of fresh vegetables that are sitting on my kitchen table to consider using up like the massive summer squash my neighbor foisted on me and perhaps some roasted peppers that have been hanging out in the refrigerator.

This is a forgiving recipe so that you can use whatever you have on hand and it will still come out tasting delicious and satisfying for dinner especially when paired with your favorite chilled rose. (Just a suggestion!) Easily swap out the flour in the crust for King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour to make it gluten free.

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Fans of Fancy Toast

jammy tomatoes and herb cheese on toasted white bread

Top Chef fans may remember Carrie Baird from season 15. The Colorado chef who won challenges with her ideas and execution with toppings on toasted bread. Her humble nature and kind attitude made you want to root for her and the judges seemed to absolutely love any concoction that she expertly put on toasted bread to the point where it seemed to annoy less successful “chef-testants”.

Garbage Can Cookies

cookies with chocolate chips, pretzels and Reese's Pieces on a white plate

We invented this recipe together. Declan wanted cookies with Reese’s Pieces after viewing the motion picture  E.T. the Extra Terrestrial for the first time. That movie made we want some of the peanut butter candy, too and reminded me how sad and weird the story is. The kids barely made it through without crying when they thought E.T. was dead. But we all made it to the end when E.T. went back into outer space and lived happily ever after.

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Chocolate Chess Pie

Chocolate Chess Pie

  Although a Chess Pie is not much to look at, it is a truly decadent recipe using only humble ingredients from the pantry. A diamond in the rough, so to speak. It makes me feel like a queen when I indulge in a slice of this gooey, fudge bomb of a pie. It doesn’t matter that I am trapped in the house with my teenagers who make me want to pull every hair out of my head. This pie is like Calgon, it takes me away from all of their bickering, demanding of snacks, t.v. time, sulking and pouting.  I take a bite and savor a brief moment of solitude, locked in my office before they come knocking on the door, yelling , “Mo-om! Where are you???” 

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Fancy Hors D’Oeuvres: Stuffed Celery

 

celery stuffed with cream cheese and olives in a fancy orange dish

My grandmother would invite us over for “cocktails and hors d’oeuvres” and sometimes dinner would follow.  She never said the word, “appetizers”.  How boring.  Although the hors d’oeuvres were often stale Triscuits and a can of Cheez-Whiz or or a tub of WisPride port wine cheddar, not exactly fancy stuff.  The cocktails were a base of vodka, whiskey or rum (your choice) and an array of mixers: cranberry juice,  ginger ale, Coke and 7-Up.  But sometimes, if it was a holiday or the night after a big party, there were other treats on the table. Continue reading

Chocolate Drizzle Shortbread

shortbread cookies drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt  

Fika!!

Fika, the Swedish coffee break that happens at least once a day, is my new favorite excuse to enjoy coffee and sweets whenever I need to take a moment.  The aim is to find some sort of balance during the day in the pleasure of sipping a cup of coffee. Traditionally, sweets are eaten, as well, especially cinnamon buns but cookies and cakes are also invited to the party. It’s exactly the kind of thing that I enjoy doing in the middle of the afternoon to recharge my batteries.  And, like most Americans who find themselves rushing around all day, I can always use some more fika in my life.  One book I read on the subject suggested that fika could be considered a “caffeinated meditation”. Yessss. Taking a moment to relax, reflect, spend time with a friend or even to let the dog run around the yard while I put my feet up, that’s what I have learned is the essence of fika.  According to my research, fika in Sweden happens twice a day.  I can only hope to aspire to such a goal.  Until then, I will do my best to fika as much as I possibly can.

Here is a cookie recipe that keeps well and is easy to make to have fika sweets at the ready.  The balance of the dark chocolate, sweet shortbread and briny sea salt pair well with a cup of warm, slightly bitter coffee.

Chocolate Drizzle Shortbread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out.

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

10 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon Crisco or flavorless oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour and salt in a medium sized bowl.  Using a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the egg and almond and vanilla extracts.  Mix to combine.  Add flour mixture and mix until all ingredients are combined.  Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Take dough out of refrigerator.  Dust a sheet of parchment or Silpat with flour.  Roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick using a floured rolling pin.  place parchment or Silpat with dough onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until dough is longer shiny.

Remove par cooked dough from oven and gently slice into small rectangles about 1 1/2″ wide and 2″ long.  Place in oven and bake again for 7-8 minutes until edges are lightly golden.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before separating cookies.

After separating cookies, heat the chocolate chips and oil in a microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval until mixture is completely melted.  Drizzle cookies with melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle with sea salt before chocolate hardens.  Allow chocolate to harden for a few hours.  Store in a sealed container for up to one week.

Enjoy your fika moment!

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

cheesecake bars with swirled strawberry and fresh strawberry garnish on a white plate

When the local, native strawberries seem to be jumping off the vine during a more rainy than usual June on Cape Cod, I can’t help myself:  I must pick as much as I can carry home.  After paying a small fortune, I realize that I need to come up with some really good ideas for these luscious gems.  Strawberry jam is an obvious choice for me to make as I put up a batch just about every year.  Strawberry Shortcake and fresh strawberries at the ready to just pop into my mouth are favorites, too.  I came up with a strawberry smoothie including almond milk and Kefir for those who want to keep it healthy but what about those of us who love some sugar with our berries?  Strawberries and cheesecake is a classic combination but who has the time for cooking a fancy New York style cheesecake that takes hours of low and slow baking for the creamiest of textures?  Behold the Strawberry Cheesecake Bar.  Easy, portable, and incredibly creamy and delicious with just the right amount of sweet fruit. Continue reading

Campfire Strawberries

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It’s strawberry season on Cape Cod.  That time of year when the native berries are ripe and juicy, practically jumping off the vine, begging to be picked and popped right into your mouth.  It’s a short season as far as produce goes: just a few weeks and they are gone.  So, it’s important to drop everything and partake in these glorious red orbs at every possible moment.  Continue reading

Crab Puff

TriscuitcrackersHellmansRealMayonnaisePhiladelphiaCreamCheeseBumbleBeeCrabmeatforcrabpuffIt’s really nothing to look at but delicious to eat.  A perfectly easy hot hors d’eouvre to serve with crackers or even Cape Cod Potato Chips.  I found the recipe in my grandmother’s recipe file.  While she wasn’t known for her cooking,  she certainly loved to entertain.  Her old file is filled with no shortage of quick and easy recipes mainly magazine and newspaper clippings affixed to recipe index cards with Scotch tape that is slowly disintegrating.  From recipes with Campbell’s soup as its base to more intricate ones like Swedish Meatballs and even one made with green jello, canned pineapple and cottage cheese, there is something for everyone…that is if you having a “Mad Men” themed party. Continue reading