Strawberry festivals, children playing soccer in the streets and afternoon thunderstorms - it's finally summer in Ontario!
Over the past couple of weeks, I've developed my own little summertime routine: waking up for work before sunrise, coming home to dinner on the grill, consuming gallons of passion fruit iced tea and binge-watching Orange Is the New Black before bed.
Because Mississauga typically gets only six months of snow-free weather, I'm doing everything I can to make the most of the warm weather. I attended a Yankees game in downtown Toronto last week (we won!) and plan on doing some antiquing this Sunday.
For his part, Hubby has become resident grill master and lawn cutter extraordinaire.
To fully take advantage of summer, I've been trying to cook with seasonal fruits & veggies while they're affordable (the latter is so rare in Ontario since a lot of produce is imported at incredible expense) - particularly avocados since a tiny Hass costs no less than $2.50 during the colder months! Last week I purchased a bag of 5 for only $4.99, which is still pricey by Florida standards - where my grandmother has her own avocado tree in the backyard - but is practically a steal here in Ontario.
I made this pasta salad to accompany some turkey burgers that Hubby grilled for us last week. I pureed some avocado for the dressing, tossed some more in with the pasta and sliced another one to garnish the burgers with. Okay, maybe I went Hass crazy but at $1 a pop, I was stoked!
And it all tasted amazing. Seriously, like summer in a bowl.
Avocado-Ranch Pasta Salad
This dish takes advantage of so many summertime gems - tomatoes,
avocados and fresh basil. Serve alongside burgers, ribs or steak.
for the pasta:
8 oz shell pasta
3 strips thick cut bacon
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Hass avocado
handful of fresh basil leaves
salt & pepper to taste
for the dressing:
1/2 cup ranch dressing (preferably chilled)
1/2 Hass avocado
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, drain and run cold water over the pasta until completely cooled. Set aside in a large bowl.
Cook the bacon, then pat dry on a paper towel. (Keep the bacon grease in the pan!) Chop into small pieces and add to the pasta.
Saute the halved tomatoes in the bacon grease until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add to the pasta, keeping as much of the grease out as possible.
To prepare the dressing, place the ranch, avocado, lime juice and cilantro in a blender and process until smooth. Pour over the pasta and toss to coat.
Slice the basil into long ribbons and gently fold into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately..."
These words by Henry David Thoreau have become my new dogma, a sort of mantric track looping over and over again in my head.
Hubby and I both pine for a quiet life out of the suburbs and into the woods. We thought moving to Canada from Florida would help make that dream a reality but the extreme cost of living here - the same old rat race to make ends meet - has weighed heavily on our souls.
So when my boss informed me yesterday that I'd have the July 4th weekend off, Hubs & I began planning a wooded getaway.
We began looking for cabin rentals within Canada but the search quickly turned to upstate New York, where the prices are lower and we'd feel more removed from our everyday lives. (There's nothing like crossing a border to make your troubles feel a million miles away.)
And, to be perfectly honest, I can't imagine spending Independence Day anywhere but America right now. I miss it.
We've narrowed it down to the Catskill and Adirondack regions. I've sent a few inquiring emails to property owners and am eager (perhaps too eager?) to hear back from them, pack the Jeep, grab the dog and drive toward the mountains.
And maybe while we're there we can do a bit of harmless farmhouse-hunting. Can't hurt to look. You never know where the wind may take us.
Basil & Goat Cheese Quiche
The beauty of this dish is how the ingredients create
the perfect balance between richness and earthiness.
The creamy goat cheese plays off the fresh herbs brilliantly.
9-inch pie crust (I usually follow Martha Stewart's Perfect Pie Crust recipe but there's nothing wrong with purchasing Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts from the grocery store. They're a great option if you're looking to save time.)
1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces garlic & herb goat cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie crust in a quiche or pie pan and set aside.
Heat the butter, then saute the onions until browned. Spread them in an even layer over the bottom of the pie crust.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, basil leaves, salt and pepper. Pour over the pie crust and onions.
Slice the goat cheese into 6 rounds, then place in a circular pattern in the egg mixture.
Place the pan in the oven for 45 minutes or until the eggs are completely cooked in the center.
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving so the quiche has time to set.
It would have been pitch black outside, if not for the flashlight I was carrying.
I was visiting my parents in southwest Florida for the week. Parker and I were taking our before-bed stroll around the block, when I heard the distinct click-clack of a dog's nails on the pavement behind us.
Fear overcame me but I turned around. And that was when I met Dobby.
He followed me home that night and, five years later, he still lives with my parents. He, the stray Jack russell who never strayed from us. He trusted me that night and has put all of his nervous, confused energy into loving us. He is undeniably family.
But now he's sick. That 20-pound bundle of excitement, who works so hard every day to be patient and calm and good, has had chemicals injected into his body routinely over the past year in a vain effort to kill the cancer on his face.
It isn't fair. It's never fair with dogs, whom I believe are the most holy and innocent of souls on this earth. They are godly in their resilience, saintly in their ability to forgive and move on.
This blueberry pie has nothing to do with Dobby, except that I've been especially sad this week thinking about his circumstances. And when I'm down, I bake. So I baked this pie with a heavy heart, thinking about my buddy Dobs, praying that we'll miraculously get another five years with him.
Blueberry-Peach Ginger Pie
I got carried away with the lattice topping and made the strips too thin.
They couldn't support the bulbousness of the blueberries and crumbled
to pieces each time I cut a slice. So to maintain the integrity of the pie,
I recommend simply laying a second pie crust over the fruit filling,
crimping the edges and cutting a few slits for ventilation.
2 uncooked pie crusts (I followed Martha Stewart's Perfect Pie Crust recipe but there's nothing wrong with purchasing Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts from the grocery store. They're a great option if you're looking to save time.)
6 cups blueberries
4 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Make the pie crust or pull the pre-made dough out of the fridge. Line a deep-dish pie plate with one of the crusts. Make sure there's a bit of crust hanging over the edge (about half an inch).
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, brown sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of this mixture over the bottom of the pie crust to prevent it from becoming soggy while baking.
In a large bowl, toss the blueberries and peaches with the sugar/cornstarch mixture, lemon juice and ginger. Stir gently until everything is coated evenly.
Pour filling into bottom crust. Place your top crust over the filling. Press the edges of both crusts together and fold the overhang under itself; press to seal. Using your thumb and forefinger, crimp the edges. Cut a few slits in top of pie to let steam escape.
* If you'd like to create a lattice top, this video explains it very simply. And this website shows how to braid the crust like I did.
For the egg wash, whisk together 1 egg and 1/2 cup of cold water to create an egg wash. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top of the crust.
Line a large cookie sheet with tin foil and place the pie in the center. Loosely wrap the foil around the crust to create a tent. This is optional but will prevent the crust from potentially burning while baking.
Bake for 30 minutes at 450F, then remove the foil and place back on the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 60 - 70 minutes at 375F or until the pie is golden brown and the berries are bubbly.
Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, at least 6 hours. This pie will reach its peak flavor after 24 hours, so the longer you can leave it to rest, the better.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.