Summer Recipe Roundup

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I could post some fun, summer recipes. The problem is that because summer has just begun (or not even, officially), I can’t really start experimenting or playing around with summer recipes yet until the produce is available. I did get a pretty good haul this past weekend and hopefully will have some recipes to share with you at the end of the week, but for now, what I thought might be nice is to round up several recipes from previous summers, with links, so you can dive into the archives and go with something tried and true. So here ya go, Janessa.

Summer Recipe Roundup

Creamy Avocado Linguine with Meyer Lemon and Arugula
shrimp avocado pasta

Although avocados are technically in season all the time, this dish is decidedly summer. The addition of shrimp make it seasonal for the Eastern Seaboard, and it’s just so damn refreshing.

 

Dried Strawberries

Dried Strawberries

There are still some strawberries in the fields around here – if they’re still available where you are, a great way to save them is to dry and freeze them. Great on salads, in cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, etc.

Eggplant Rotini with Roasted Veggies

eggplant Rotini

This is one of my favorite summer recipes. Quick, fresh, easy and adaptable to whatever veggies you have on hand. Don’t go through the summer without making this.

Local Yokel Mojito
20130415-183149.jpg

Of course I had to add a beverage in, but mojitos, with fresh mint from your garden, are the epitome of summer sipping. My mint is already coming up like crazy, and if yours is too, then don’t let another Happy Hour go by without making this.

Roasted Beet Salad with Vinaigrette
Beets in vinaigrette

I just got a bunch of beets from the farmers market this past weekend, so beet salad with vinaigrette is not far away. This is by far my favorite beet recipe out there and a summer staple at our house.

Shrimp Ceviche
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Shrimp Ceviche is so fresh, light and healthy that it screams summer. Dish it out into martini glasses for a classy, but super easy app.

Summer Beef and Rice Skillet Casserole
beef skillet

This recipe was great and I’m furious at myself for not making it this past summer between our epic move and living in two different states. This is a great way to use up all that squash and zucchini that presents itself mid to late summer. It’s also great for a family or for a small crowd. This summer, I’ll be making it as much as is reasonable and/or until my husband starts complaining.

 

OK! There are so many more recipes, many of which are summer seasonable, over on the RECIPES PAGE, but hopefully this gave you a good start. This is such an exciting time of year when things start to pop up and the options are endless, so don’t let it pass you by – get out to your local farmers market, farm stand or local grocery and BUY LOCAL and EAT FRESH!

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Virginia is for Wine Lovers

Let me just say here that although I grew up in North Carolina, and will always consider it home, I have been a legal resident and part-time physical resident of Virginia since I was 15, and a full-time resident since I was 18, and I will admit that I love this “Commonwealth” (it’s not a state, they are real picky about that  . . . ). And Virginia’s wine growing region is not the least of the reasons why.

I should also mention that I love wine. A lot. Like, almost as much, and on some days more than food. Jeremy and I have been visiting Virginia wineries for the past five years or so, and this past year we took our dream trip to Napa Valley. We are winos, plain and simple.

Finally, I should mention that October is Virginia Wine Month which is really fortunate, because as the saying goes – grapes don’t grow in ugly places. And Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in October is the opposite of ugly. So we took advantage of several situations this past weekend: the peak of the fall foliage season in Shenandoah, the fact that my cousin and her husband just moved to Staunton, VA, and Virginia Wine Month = wine-tasting weekend!!

Virginia wine is pretty amazing, and I can say this even more confidently now, having been to Napa and having tasted some of the best wine the USA makes (I’ll post about that trip later, but I’ll just note here that we tasted and toured Opus One in Napa, which might be one of, if not the, most exclusive wine in the region and while MOST impressive, it still does not outshine the beauty, character and body of Virginia Vino). I fully believe that in the next 10-20 years, Shenandoah Valley will be the East Coast equivalent of Napa Valley. According to VirginiaWine.org “By 1995, Virginia had 46 wineries. By 2005, 107. At 192 wineries and counting today, only California, New York, Oregon and Washington have more wineries than Virginia. The persistence of generations of winemakers is paying off. And the vision of one of Virginia’s most renowned native sons, Thomas Jefferson, is now coming true.”

I could write, and several people have, a book about the influence Thomas Jefferson had on Virginia’s agricultural economy, and specifically wine growing, but we won’t get in to that here. The bottom line is, it’s a historical industry that is finally getting its due, and will continue to flourish in years to come as the wines become more well known and the industry continues to improve.

Here was our wine itinerary for the weekend:

Stop 1: Barren Ridge Vineyards

This very small, but well designed winery with amazing views was a great way to start the day. More low-key than some other wineries we visited, we did not feel rushed and tasted several great wines, the highlight of which was their Traminette and Vidal Blanc. Then we took some cheesy pictures:

We were going for a “Saved by the Bell” pose here.

Stop 2: Afton Mountain Vineyards

Afton has a great selection of wines and offers a classic and reserve tasting. I splurged for the reserve tasting (seriously it’s only $3 more, so just do it), and was really impressed with their reds, particularly their Festa di Bacco, a Tuscan style blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and their Cabernet Franc, which is a grape that grows particularly well in Virginia – you’ll find a bottle of this at almost every winery in the state. Jeremy, Sara and Bryan (my cousin and her husband) did the classic tasting and all agreed the Riesling, which was semi-dry and not too sweet (less than 2% residual sugar – a number very important to those of us who detest wines that taste like grape flavored corn syrup) was a winner. So we shared a glass of the Riesling on their beautiful patio. Did I mention the weather was perfect? It was perfect.

It was impossible not to take advantage of this photo opp.

Stop 3: Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Veritas blew us all away. It was shocking to me and Jeremy because it was busier and crazier than anything we’d seen in Napa. The inside of the farmhouse style building was decorated beautifully, tastings are done in groups throughout the house – either at the bar, or in big, overstuffed leather couches, and they have a fantastic yard with a beautiful view where you can picnic or just hang out or nosh on a house cheese tray like we did. There was a line out the door to taste that never disappeared while we were there – although people were being moved through and seated pretty quickly. Far and away the star of the show here is their Saddleback Chardonnay (2011). This is an “old-world” style Chardonnay that starts in stainless steel and is matured in neutral French oak barrels for 4 months. The results is a smooth wine that is not “oakey” or buttery the way many barrel fermented Chards are. It’s light and smooth but still has a lot of body. We bought a bottle, grabbed a cheese tray and set up camp for a while. And wouldn’t you know it, I found the only pug visiting wineries that day in Shenandoah?

Their decor was pretty awesome. Also, I have enough wine corks to do this in my own house.

I found the pug!

I never miss an opportunity for pug play.

It’s just too pretty everywhere up there.

 

Stop 4: Pollak Vineyards

Our intention had been to stop after Veritas, but at the tasting bar a gentlemen informed Sara that Pollak was very close and a must-taste, so we hit the road again and headed to this fairly new, but well done vineyard that grows enough grapes that they actually sell some of their crop to other local wineries. The owners here originally owned a winery in California’s Carneros region of Napa Valley. The tasting bar was PACKED, so this man must have been really spreading the word, but we waited patiently for our taste, and decided to spend some time on the property here as well, so we all headed outside with a bottle of their Pinot Gris and a glass (for me) of their Cabernet Sauvignon (a hard wine to make in VA, but this one was worthy). Sara took a pretty awesome panoramic picture of the winery and our table, and then we took some photo opps down by their little pond . . . at this point we may have tasted a bit too much wine to be standing that close to a body of water, but we took our chances.

packed!

A pretty sweet panoramic. Thanks, iPhone.

You are seeing bad decisions in action.

Best to make bad decisions with people you love.

Or stay a safe distance. Probably better.

I took a much more hysterical picture of these two, but Sara is insistent that it is not flattering. Pish posh.

 

The whole day was awesome and I remain amazed and impressed with the wine grown in my “commonwealth” and as much as I love Napa, this is MY wine growing region, and I will continue to support it, no matter what month it is.

Have you been to a Virginia Winery or tasted a Virginia Wine? If you live outside of Virginia – have you tasted any wines produced in your state? What did you think?

BERKFERST NOT MAH FAVRIT MERLS

If you need context for that title, check this out.

Breakfast is hard. Mostly because I don’t get hungry until about 11, but they tell you you’re supposed to eat within 30 minutes of waking up to boost your metabolism. I’ll be perfectly honest here and say that sometimes 11 and “within 30 minutes of waking up” are not always that far apart….but that aside, sometimes I just want a cup of coffee and for everything else to somehow make itself. Also, since I don’t really care for breakfast (on the weekdays – weekends are another story full of bacon and cheesy scrambled eggs and toast with strawberry jam), I try to make it as healthy as possible since my taste buds haven’t always totally woken up.

Last week I had gotten a few local peaches from my co-op and when I got up that morning, somehow all the cereal, bread, jam, and milk had magically disappeared. So I opted for oatmeal with peaches. I told you when I started this blog, there would be some major fails. This one wasn’t major, but it was a misstep – the directions on the oatmeal said to add a 1/4 tsp of salt to the oats while they were cooking. I cut the recipe in half, since it was just me and just threw in a “dash” of salt. Well, either these instructions are bobo to begin with, or my brain is so dysfunctional in the morning that my “dash” was actually a giant pour and this was the saltiest oatmeal I’ve ever had in my life. I tried to add some cream and honey to it to tone it down, but to no real avail. I ended up just mostly eating the peaches with a little bit of the oats. My advice: just don’t put salt in oatmeal. Seriously, whose idea was that anyways?

In any case, I think it turned out “pretty” which is sometimes all I can ask of my food:

BERKFERST

Local honey and peaches with rolled oats

So despite the salt-lick fiasco, let’s talk about the benefits of this meal while pretending it didn’t taste gross. First off, oats are a whole grain, and rolled oats are a less processed version of a whole grain. I’d like to say I can stomach steel cut, as-little-processing-as-possible oats, but I can’t. They’re just gross and should be reserved for horses. Thick rolled oats are my in-between healthy option. I get this brand from the organic/natural aisle of the grocery store. They take 10-20 minutes to cook. Word to the wise – if your “whole grains” take less than 5 minutes to cook, they aren’t really doing you any good. Whole grains are good for your heart, cholesterol, blood pressure (reducing the likelihood of having blood clots, stroke and heart attack), and provide you with folic acid, fiber, b vitamins, iron and more. You can find out more about the benefits of whole grains on the whole grain council website.

Honey is full of antioxidants, is a great way of sweetening food without giving you a sugar rush because of its quick glucose and slow fructose release and if you suffer from seasonal outdoor allergies, locally produced honey can help curb some of those issues because it gives you a healthy, low-dose of the pollen you are allergic to, sort of like a vaccine or an allergy shot would. Find more fun honey info here.
Locally produced honey is the best kind to get (of course) because it will provide your system with the local allergens and pollen, because it helps keep your local honey bee population thriving (which is incredibly important for agriculture overall) and because it taste better because it has to go through less processing. I buy mine from Bee’s Knee’s apiary here in Chesapeake, VA.

Finally, peaches. Ah, peaches. The epitome of July. The highlight of summer. Who would even care if they had health benefits or not, they are so good? But, luckily, they are full of potassium (low potassium is the source of MANY health issues including hypertension, fatigue, muscle weakness and more), beta-carotene (which your body turns in to Vitamin A), lycopene and lutein. They are also high in fiber and vitamin C. It’s important to note that while almost all vegetables and many fruits are “high in fiber” – the fiber usually resides in the skin of the product. Some fiber is contained in the flesh, but when it comes to things like peaches, cucumbers, apples, etc – if you are peeling them before eating them, you are losing out on a lot of fiber and nutrients. Whole food is the best food.

Alright, that’s enough for today’s nutrition lesson. Just remember – skip the salt, use a minimally processed whole grain, leave your fruit’s skin on and skip the sugar and replace it with locally produced honey. And coffee….don’t forget the coffee…..