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balsamic roasted pork with pears and potatoes

Apparently my last 3 months can be paired with a fruit. I wonder if I can keep this going?

My August?

colorado peaches

The peaches and these people.

kids

Cole summer 2015

Ella Bella summer 2015

Evelyn summer 2015

My September?

grapes

The grapes and this girl.

Jen and Heather

My October?

red and yellow bosc pears

The pears and purgatory.

See what I did there? Matchy matchy. And by purgatory I don’t exactly mean an uphill climb rather a downward slope. Heaven knows there is really only one direction to go from there. Please say yes, November.

In spite of an annoying October, I did go searching for pears. Here’s the thing about pears, you HAVE to bring them home hard but not tooooo hard. The other day I found some lovely ripe organic bartlett pears but by the time the grocery bagger at the new Hyvee decided to put them at the bottom of a bag filled with bananas, coffee grounds, butter, popcorn, coconut aminos and a gallon of milk on top (not even kidding), they were pear sauce in a plastic bag when I got home. In this context, how gross does that sound? Grocery bag pear sauce for $8. Even if they hadn’t rumbled roughly down the grocery conveyer belt (yes, that too) you need hard enough pears to survive the trip home.

red bosc pear

Good grief. When you hear things like, buy pears hard but not too hard, or make sure they are bagged correctly, oh and smell your fruit, it’s no wonder people stop trying to eat fresh foods. (For reals though, I do smell my fruit. If it smells like a rock then it probably tastes like one.)

Oh dearest pear tree, where ever art thou? Oh that’s right, not in Minnesota. 🙁 They were however found in my fruit loop journey through Oregon this past September–fruit farms and stands right off the side of the road, you lucky people of Oregon.

Oregon Fruit Loop

Pears are the perfect partners to pork and potatoes, and you don’t need them very ripe to roast just right.

roasted pork, sweet potatoes and pears

Add just a little onion to the mix and you have another reason to love.

sliced red onion

It’s a simple combination and one of our favorite fall dinners.

roasted pork, pears and potatoes

Hello November. I’m liking you already.

Balsamic Roasted Pork with Pears and Potatoes
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Makes: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • 4 potatoes scrubbed, sliced thinly into wedges lengthwise, at least 8 wedges per potato so they can cook all the way through. Use russet, sweet potatoes or yams!
  • ½ red or yellow onion cut into 4 chunks and separate
  • 4 barely ripe pears quartered and seeded
  • 4 short sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked for at least 1 tablespoon roughly chopped
  • 4 heads of garlic peeled and crushed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • additional salt and pepper to season the pork
Instructions
  1. Set pork chops in a glass dish.
  2. Whisk together ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ⅓ cup olive oil, 4 garlic cloves crushed, 1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves roughly chopped, ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon of ground pepper.
  3. Pour approximately 1 tablespoon of whisked marinade on each pork chop, 4-6 tablespoons total for entire glass dish, reserving the rest of your sauce for later. Flip the meat over and rub it around so both sides are covered. Let your meat set at room temperature while you finish the recipe. (This part can be made an hour and up to 4 hours ahead and refrigerated. Be sure to let meat come to room temperature before you start the cooking process.)
  4. Preheat your oven to 425°.
  5. Chop your potatoes, pears and onions as your oven preheats. Toss your fruits and vegetables with remaining marinade, making sure each piece is covered with the sauce, with clean hands rub the pieces with marinade. Finish off with more rosemary leaves or whole sprigs and lightly sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper across your entire dish.
  6. Place your vegetables and fruit in the oven and set your timer for 40 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat.
  8. Sprinkle your marinated pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides and place them in your hot skillet, scraping all marinade in as well. Let your chops fry for about 1½ minutes before flipping over. Fry again for a minute or two. You are just searing both sides.
  9. Once both sides have been seared, open your oven and settle your pork chops, and any remaining pan sauce, on top of your vegetables and continue to bake for remaining time.
  10. At the 40 minute mark, pull out your pan and check readiness by piercing a potato to see if it's cooked all the way through and tender. Check your meat's temperature if you'd like as well. If it's at least 135° take it out and let your dish rest, it will continue to cook. If it needs more time, put it back in for another 5 and check again.

balsamic roasted pork with pears and potatoes

Enjoy!

~Heather

Note: If you want or need to simplify this recipe, you can skip marinating and pan frying your pork chops. Just rub all pork chops, vegetables and fruits (as seen in picture below) with entire batch of marinade. Salt and pepper the whole dish well and cook for 45 minutes, or until meat and potatoes are fully cooked. I prefer the extra step of marinating and searing the meat if I have prep time, but I like this next best option on nights when I need to throw something in the oven sooner than later.  

roasted pork with potatoes and pears

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ancho chili chicken tacos with cider glazed red onions

I can/will/want to eat tacos every single day. I’ve yet to get sick of them, and they keep getting better with age and experimentation. Am I talking about tacos or wine? Ok, both.

ancho chili chicken tacos with red onions

Do you remember your first taco? I do. Sibley State Park camp ground, age 7. Ha and not kidding. Margaret Fransen offered my parents something she was cooking up on her camp stove–crunchy shell, seasoned beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato. It was new to us (and it was awesome) but just the beginning. Thank you, Margaret.

My taco/Mexican evolution went something like this: Margaret’s Old El Paso Taco > Taco John’s soft shells > Chi-Chi’s in the ’80s > Don Pablo’s in the ’90s > variations of this Martha Stewart recipe > and then the changer of all game changers: the day Tim and I landed the last 2 brunch seats at Chicago’s Frontera Grill. Even though I did not eat tacos that day, it was the introduction to Rick Bayless (and his cookbooks) that lead to eating corn tortillas and learning how to make more authentic Mexican food.

white corn tortillas

It is interesting to observe that once I learned how to successfully heat up a corn tortilla, and quit buying flour as a thoughtless habit, the taco options grew exponentially for any meal of the day. Scrambled eggs and sautéed greens, beans and cheese, guacamole and fried egg, chicken and onions, steak and radishes, fish and cabbage slaw, sausages and kimchi, brussels and sweet potatoes. Good grief, we’ll eat corn tortillas filled with anything.

Chicken tacos

This simple chicken taco recipe I am sharing with you here is inspired from Rick in a couple ways that I can readily think of: the grilled chicken with knob onions (page 180) and the adobo marinade (page 140), both from his original Mexican Everyday. I’ve made a few changes over time that work for me and what I usually have on hand. I like the mild Ancho chili taste (poblanos) and have sweetened it up with orange juice, my latest sweetener craze.

fresh squeezed orange juice

It’s easy to make, keeps in the fridge, and adds great flavor for grilling or sautéing meat.

ancho chile marinade

Here’s the marinade:

Ancho Chili Marinade
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Makes: ½ cup, easily doubled
Inspired from Rick Bayless
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange juice or ½ orange squeezed and strained
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in pan and add crushed garlic, sauté for 1 minute.
  2. Add oregano and ancho, and stir over the heat.
  3. Add vinegar, orange juice, salt, and water. Whisk until combined.
  4. Heat over medium-high heat until it's bubbling. Turn to low to simmer for 8-10 minutes to blend flavors.
  5. When completely cool pour into a small jar with tight lid and store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Ancho chile chicken

Here’s the chicken and my new favorite way to make onions for tacos (barely cooked with a little crunch). I finish them off with a splash of apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

red onions finished in apple cider vinegar

Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cider Glazed Red Onions
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Makes: 12 tacos
Ingredients
Chicken
  • 1 lb of chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup Ancho Marinade (recipe above)
Onions
  • 1 red onion (or white) sliced into thin rings, all rings cut in half
  • 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil or clarified butter
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Toppings
Instructions
Chicken Prep:
  1. Rinse chicken breasts in cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise making 2 large strips.
  3. Salt and pepper chicken and let set for a few minutes before adding marinade.
  4. Pour ¼ cup Ancho Chile Marinade into a prep dish, adding more as needed.
  5. Generously brush chicken breasts with marinade on both sides and set in shallow dish.
  6. Let chicken rest with marinade for up to 30 minutes. If you want to do this longer, then pop in fridge until ready. If it's going to be more than an hour, cover or place chicken breasts in large baggie with marinade and rub it around to coat the chicken. (This is not an overnight marinade!)
Directions for Grilling Chicken:
  1. Sear on direct high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, remove from direct heat and cook slowly over indirect heat for about 6 minutes, turning a couple of times.
  2. Remove to plate, cover with foil and let rest while you prepare the onions and tortillas.
Directions for Pan Frying Chicken:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan on medium high heat.
  2. Add marinaded chicken breast pieces, scraping sauce into pan.
  3. Sauté on both sides until cooked through, about 6-10 minutes total, set on a clean plate and cover with foil while you make the onions.
Onions
  1. Heat clarified butter or olive oil in sauté pan on medium high heat, add onions and toss around.
  2. Sauté for about 5 minutes only, stirring a few times. You want them limp but still a little crunchy.
  3. Turn the heat up a bit, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and stir until vinegar evaporates.
  4. Lightly salt and pepper to taste.
Assembling Tacos:
  1. Slice chicken into thin strips or pull apart with 2 forks to shred. If chicken has cooled or you make it ahead, reheat in pan with meat juices poured in or add a couple tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of extra sauce. Stir to reheat and shred in pan with two forks.
  2. Serve warm corn tortillas with chicken, queso fresco crumbled, warm onions, cilantro leaves and a chipotle salsa if you wish.

Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cider Glazed Onions

Enjoy!

~Heather

Note about kids and corn tortillas: all 3 of my kids had to warm up to eating corn tortillas over the years, even Evie who wasn’t undoing the habit of flour. It’s not an immediate love in texture for kids, from what I’ve noticed. While they didn’t always prefer it, nor were they forced to eat it, we didn’t buy flour and we kept on serving corn as an option. Zip to the present, there are now arguments on who ate the last corn tortilla and rules about putting it on the list when you do. 

 

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orange balsamic salad dressing

prosciutto, pine nuts, and balsamic orange dressing

This salad finally happened. It was a necessary follow-up to the fried chicken and home made peach ice cream I made for extra special people this week. Whoa. Time out for salad!

Actually it was more like time out for fried chicken, which is so not our daily dish but definitely worth a little celebratory appearance this week. Having friends over for the first time in our 10 year adult friendship? How in the world has this not happened?? Fried chicken and homemade ice cream it had to be.

But back to the salad show.

orange balsamic dressing

I’ve had this orange balsamic dressing standing tall in my refrigerator since Monday, and it’s been patiently waiting for these greens. In our 5 trips to the grocery store in the last 5 days (and a garden outside!) I somehow didn’t have greens? How this happens I’ll never understand.

Today though, I have it all.

Greens.

salad greens

Pine nuts toasted.

pine nuts

Prosciutto.

prosciutto salad

And a sprinkling of pecorino!

pecorino cheese

This salad is so simple and light.

freshly squeezed orange juice for balsamic salad dressing

The orange juice naturally sweetens and offsets the vinegar (Whole30 approved btw!), and the simplicity of garlic, salt, and pepper gives the perfect bite.

Serve this dressing with tomatoes and ricotta? Yes.

summer tomatoes and whipped ricotta and balsamic dressing

This dressing with spinach, grapes, bacon, and broccoli? Sure.

spinach salad with orange balsamic dressing

Loving your lunch can always be summed up with these five words: make your own salad dressing. For my other favorite vinaigrettes, look here and here.

Orange Balsamic Salad Dressing
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Makes: 10 ounces
Ingredients
  • 1 large orange zested
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon of cracked pepper
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary (optional)
Instructions
  1. Wash and dry your orange. Zest the entire surface.
  2. Cut your orange in half and squeeze. You should have about ½ cup, give or take a little.
  3. Whisk zest, juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper together in a bowl until combined.
  4. Slowly add your oil by pouring in a steady stream and whisking vigorously.
  5. If adding chopped rosemary, whisk in at the very end or sprinkle a few leaves on the salad.
  6. Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to a week.

orange balsamic salad dressing

Enjoy!

~Heather

{ 4 comments }

roasted peaches and raspberries with crumb topping

I’m a peach freak. I love them sooooo much. They are probably my favorite fruit? Let me pause and make sure this feels true. Hmmm. Yes, peaches are at the top. But you won’t find us desperately eating a hard tasteless peach in January. Who can do that?

roasted peach halves

Come August? I’m daily making my way to the peach section to see if the beloved seasonal Colorado peaches are still being stocked. If so, 8 go in the cart. I just realized I get about 8 every time. Do you have a number? I don’t want a crate, I don’t even want a dozen. I would then have to mourn at least 1 going bad. But 8 this family can do justice to, in a 24 hour period.

colorado peaches

Now Ev, who by the math above has had the chance to eat peaches 4 weeks out of her 4 year old life, is catching on to this peach thing and that makes 5 of us eating 8 peaches. Wait, I’m thinking my number better go up to 10, yes?

If there is any food that is worth waiting for and repeatedly visiting the grocery store, it’s the peach.

peaches and cream

While I love to eat them with cream on top, I do love a roasted warm peach situation. This crumble has been my go-to at least once a year.

roasted peaches and raspberries

What I love about this kind of dessert are the options. It can be light or large – serve a half or whole peach per person. Make it gluten free like I did here, or use regular flour if that’s what you have and can tolerate.

peaches and raspberries with crumb topping

Even last summer, I decided to throw peaches, raspberries, cinnamon and clarified butter from this recipe in a pan as a post-Whole30 experiment. It was yummy in a Whole30 kind of way. Wink wink.

IF you somehow manage to have leftovers, this concoction in a bowl would be my breakfast dream that rarely comes true.

peaches and raspberries with crumb topping

This is not my reality today but since peaches are on my mind (and Tim was doing the football carpool this morning), I just texted him one little bitty request.

colorado peaches

Sooner than soon we’ll all have to move on, but for now, here is one of our favorites!

roasted peaches and raspberries with crumb topping
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Makes: Makes 4-8 servings
loosely adapted from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster
Ingredients
  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and halved
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter plus ½ tablespoon for buttering 10 inch skillet
  • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Butter a 10 inch skillet or pie plate with ½ a tablespoon of softened butter.
  3. Place peeled peach halves cut side up in buttered dish.
  4. Sprinkle raspberries around peaches, leaving the cavity of peaches open.
  5. In a small bowl whisk flour, sugar, oats, pecans, cinnamon and salt with a fork to combine.
  6. Add the softened 6 tablespoons of butter and mix into your dry ingredients with your fingers until combined and fully incorporated.
  7. Distribute the crumble with your fingers into the hollow peaches. Press lightly to keep most of the mixture in the peaches, letting bits and pieces fall around the raspberries.
  8. Bake the skillet for 25 minutes or so until the topping is golden brown and bubbly.
  9. Serve warm with cream drizzled on top or a small scoop of ice cream.

The perfect summer dessert!

Enjoy!

~Heather

{ 1 comment }

how to peel a peach

A couple hours after walking in the door from vacation, I reluctantly drove myself to the grocery store and walked around tossing unappealing items into my grocery cart. Post-vacation blues were kicking in, but this task had to be done. Ugh.

But then. Then I spotted the peaches and knew it was all going to be ok.

August Colorado Peaches

August might be the Sunday to your weekend or summer vacation (as my teacher friends used to say before Ellen did), but it’s also peach season in Colorado. Thank the heavens.

Go get yourself some fuzzy seasonal peaches, and we’ll meet back here in a day with more ideas, okay? For now, here’s how my mom taught me to peel peaches without losing any of the good stuff.

Bring water to a boil, and set in your fresh peaches for 1 minute.

blanching peaches to peel

Remove peaches from the water and submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process.

submerge blanched peaches in ice water bath

Gently rub your fingers over the peeling. The peels should come right off.

 

how to peel a peach

If right about now you don’t understand why I would peel a peach, just look at these pretty things!

how to peel peaches

Peaches sliced up with fresh cream on top? The August antidote to post-vacation blues.

peaches and cream

How to Peel a Peach
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Ingredients
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Fresh unpeeled peaches
Instructions
  1. Fill a pot with water. Leave space at the top so the weight of your peaches doesn't make it overflow!
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Fill a large bowl half full with water and 2 cups of ice, set aside for the end.
  4. In the pan of boiling water, gently set in peaches one at a time.
  5. Set the timer for 1 minute.
  6. With a slotted spoon, lift out each peach and put straight into ice water to stop any cooking.
  7. Let them set in the cold water while you remove one at a time to peel.
  8. Starting at the top near the stem, gently pull down on the skin of the peach with our fingers to get the peeling started. The peels should come right off!

Evie eating peaches and cream

how to peel a peach the easy way

Enjoy!

~Heather

{ 1 comment }

how to paint a piano with chalk paint

Dear cousin,

You know who you are. Someone could have stopped me from talking, but noooooo. When asked if I had used chalk paint, I said yes, that I had a chalkboard painted wall at home. I apparently didn’t know what I was talking about. It was the perfect example of Minnesota nice, you just pretended that what I said was half right? Ha! You also seem to have a gift that I did not inherit: your face does not give away what you are thinking. While I knew something was off in the room, I did not know why until later when I googled, “What did my cousin mean when she said chalk paint?” Promise me you will cut me off next time, please and thanks.

Love,
Cousin #10 of 18

Let me tell you what I did not know then. Chalk paint is not chalkboard paint! 

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Chalk paint (Look here at Annie Sloan) is a non-toxic water based paint that can be applied without sanding or stripping of the painted or stained surface. High five for all of you who also love NOT prepping in order to paint. I’m so impatient when it comes to painting furniture. A chocolate cake wrapped in a homemade ganache wrap? Sure, let’s spend hours doing that. But please don’t make painting last longer than it has to. Snip snap.

Chalk paint can also cover almost any material, not just wood. It has a matte/flat/chalk like feel when it is done. Therefore depending on the look you desire and how you will use the furniture, waxing it for protection and shine is usually recommended. In the past, I chose to cover it with a clear polyurethane instead of waxing because I used it on a dining room table that would have potential spills. I wanted a surface that could be wiped down pretty easily. I’m sure the finished product is lovely when waxed, I just haven’t tried that yet. (Please comment if you have!)

My latest victim? This orangey brown stained piano.

brown piano

A sweet friend gave it to us and physically moved it into my house. I’ve loved having it in our home. But every single time I walked into the only room it fits in, I was distracted by the color. It made me frown and my shoulders slump. I wish I understood my feelings about decor but I’ve just learned to respect them. If it drags me down, something must be done about it when possible. And if there is one thing I have learned from growing up with a Dad who is a professional painter, color is one of the more inexpensive fixes to changing something for the better.

painting a wood piano

Previously, I had re-painted a dining room table and an end table with white chalk paint. It worked great going over old white paint. However, covering a brown stained piano seemed a bit more risky and for sure had a few more delicate parts to keep in mind.

Here is what I learned:

1. Read the back of the paint can, and follow what it says about stained surfaces. I actually read it but thought it didn’t apply. In hindsight it did and could have saved me some work. It now makes complete sense.

The back of the paint says this:

For most purposes, one coat of paint is enough. However some furniture, generally from the 1930s and ’40s, has a coating which may cause a stain to come through the paint. Don’t worry, just apply clear shellac to the stain, and repaint. 

Because I had never painted a stained surface with chalk paint, and I didn’t think the piano was from the 30s and 40s, I didn’t do anything before painting this time. But sure enough, after two coats of chalk paint, yellow streaks were showing through.

chalk paint that needs a shellac coat

This was as easy as the quote noted above. I bought a small can of shellac, rubbed it on with a sponge brush, and it dried within minutes. Then I proceeded to paint it again.

TIP: In the future if I am covering a stained piece, I will prep the furniture with a coat or two of shellac up front. It’s cheap, fast, and easier than painting multiple coats of a paint color.

painting a piano with chalk paint

2. In this order, I painted 2 coats of pure white, 1 coat of shellac to seal the stain, a 3rd coat of pure white to recover sealed stains, and ended with 1 to 2 coats of polyurethane (see note below). To cover this piano and the bench, I only used 1-32 oz can of Annie Sloan pure white paint. If I had covered with shellac first, I am sure I would not have done 3 coats of white. It really covers well and dries fast so you can do multiple coats at once.

Here’s one coat of paint without sealing the stain:

coat #1

Here I am touching it 30 minutes later, and it’s ready for a 2nd coat.

chalk paint dries fast

3. When I was finished with the last coat, I touched up a few additional spots and covered it with a clear polyurethane. I like to use the top of our piano for a bar when we have company. I covered the top with a 2nd coat of poly just to be sure it’s a little bit more protected from any liquid spills. I did not do this all over. Remember, I am impatient. (I didn’t see any visual need.)

painting a piano with chalk paint

4. Chalk paint that is left open thickens a bit. By the time I painted the piano seat, the paint was getting low and thick. It left some bumps from the brush strokes on top. Since this wasn’t the look of the piano, I just took a fine grit sand paper and sanded it smooth, dusted it off, and applied the poly. Easiest paint fix I’ve ever made.

sanding some chalk paint lumps sanding down chalk paint

I am not a fussy painter when it comes to furniture because most of the furniture that I am drawn too is dinged up a bit and not perfect to begin with. There are small imperfections in my finish and even the wood in some areas shows a little cracking. Even though I was going for a fairly clean and crisp white look, I left this.

cracking

There is also a slight tinge of yellow in places (the creases) from the stain. If I had wanted, I could have filled in cracks and chips with wood filler first or given it another coat of shellac before the last coat of paint. I wanted it to belong in the rest of my imperfect house so I did not fuss with it.

chalk paint

Here’s the comparison:

before & after piano was painted

after the piano was painted

This project took me less than 4 hours total, but knowing what I know now, I could have had it done in half the time. Let me know if you have any questions. If you have experience with chalk paint, I’d really love to hear your pros and cons.

how to paint your piano white!

~Heather

{ 9 comments }

tomatoes and whipped ricotta on toasted bread

I’m just letting you all in on the lunch you and I can now have until the end of summer. Go ahead and have it all year long but right now this very month of the summer? It’s just right.

tomatoes, greens, toasts

So many things are not just right and frankly I try really hard not to make it my goal anymore to get it all right. Nevertheless when things are a little off I can get a little cranky. But it’s ooookay, I’m telling myself. It’s ok to not get things right, AND it’s equally ok not to love it when things go awry.

Like the other day. My oven was on because an honest and lovely friend tried a recipe of mine, and it was a dry failure for her. Blast. I made it again to see if I could solve the problem. Maybe I missed something, or could add a tip or two.

It’s ok, I told myself. I care about these things and that’s ooookay.

Making a recipe for the nth time was a choice I made because I love to cook and share correct information, but the fact that my less than a year old air conditioner decided to malfunction on the very same day was not ideal. I just happened to hear the weather report and a humid air mass was on it’s way. Hahaha. Well it certainly was! Of course. It’s all gonna be okay, I repeated.

Tomatoes, basil, ricotta cheese, prosciutto, pine nuts with buttered toasts? More than just okay.

summer tomatoes and whipped ricotta

I imagined this lunch for a few days before I collected it onto this plate. I was looking for a light lunch to bring to the cabin with some friends a few weeks ago. I kept picturing blue skies, kind faces, a slight warm breeze off the lake and this lunch. It felt a little random, but a bits and pieces kind of lunch is random, in the best possible way.

tomatoes and basil from the garden

I came home the next week and made it for a friend who is pretty much rocking the “it’s ok to not be ok” thing right now, even though her circumstances severely stink. This time an honest and empathetic afternoon with this lunch were the fit of the day.

tomato and ricotta cheese with pine nuts

And for the 3rd time, these very willing and hungry housemates gobbled it up asking for more.

bursch kids love their lunch

It’s official: humans love this lunch.

prosciutto

The thing about just right is that it changes with seasons and circumstances though. Don’t waste another second in the grocery aisle trying to decide what to have on hand for lunch this week. It’s summer. Go find yourself some tomatoes, as close as you can get to your home, and let it change your life–even if it’s just for a moment of gratitude in the midst of a cranky afternoon.

tomato season

Here are some thoughts to get you started. Pull it apart, mix it up, and use your imagination. If it sounds good to you, I promise it will sound good to someone else.

Tomatoes and Whipped Ricotta Plate
5.0 from 2 reviews
Print
: Light lunch or appetizer
By:
Makes: 4 Servings
Ingredients
Whipped Ricotta
  • 1 package of hand-dipped fresh ricotta (about 8 oz) - see note below
  • 1 tablespoon of cream
  • 1 lemon zested, divided in half
  • ½ lemon squeezed and the other half cut into wedges
  • salt and pepper
Bits and Pieces
  • 3 whole tomatoes sliced
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes - slice some and keep some whole
  • ½ cup of picked basil leaves
  • ½ cup of pine nuts
  • 3 oz of prosciutto
  • 4 oz of sliced salami
  • balsamic vinegar or favorite vinaigrette
  • Bread or baguette slices - I like a mix of Udi white bread and/or a thinly sliced baguette
  • ½ stick of softened butter
  • 1 large garlic clove peeled and cut in half lengthwise
Instructions
Whipped Ricotta
  1. Whip together drained fresh ricotta and 1 tablespoon of cream. You can do this by hand or in a mixer.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice and whip until smooth and creamy. Ricotta has a grain to it so it won't be butter smooth, but whip until combined and soft.
  3. If your mixture is dry add more cream a teaspoon at a time.
  4. Stir in ½ of lemon zest. Save the rest to sprinkle on top.
  5. Gently stir in ½ tsp of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Taste test. Add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Tomatoes and Basil
  1. Place sliced and whole tomatoes on one end of your plate.
  2. Top with whole or julienne sliced basil leaves.
  3. Drizzle with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar or dressing.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Pine nuts
  1. Heat a pan on medium high heat. Toss in your pine nuts.
  2. Every 30 seconds or so, shake around the pan or stir. Watch them closely because they will burn easily.
  3. After a couple minutes your pine nuts should be golden brown, slide pine nuts onto a plate to cool.
Toasts
  1. Butter both sides of bread or baguette slices.
  2. Heat a large sautè pan over medium high.
  3. Set your buttered bread slices into the hot pan and toast both sides until golden brown.
  4. Peel large garlic clove and cut in half.
  5. Rub raw side of cut garlic on toasted bread slices.
Final assembly
  1. Place prosciutto, salami, and ricotta dish on plate with prepared tomatoes. On the side offer a bowl of greens, extra balsamic vinegar or dressing, toasted pine nuts and buttered/garlic toasts.
  2. My favorite combinations: toast spread with ricotta, 1 fresh tomato slice and basil or toast with prosciutto and fresh tomato slice. Simple and delicious.
Note: I found hand-dipped ricotta in the refrigerator wall case near the cheese department at Whole Foods.

tomatoes with whipped ricotta on toasted bread

Enjoy!

~Heather

 

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strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

pick your own strawberries

The strawberry growing season in Minnesota has come to an end.

baby bootie shaped strawberries

While I hope you got to play with some local beauties (or baby booties as Evie called this one above), there are more local berries to come, no worries. Berry Hill Farm started raspberry picking this week!

Let’s just say my skills for timing farm-to-table are progressing. Usually I check into picking season the week after it’s all done. This year though. This year! The strawberries and the Bursches aligned. I looked up Berry Hill Farm. I scheduled a date with friends. We grabbed coffees and started driving. We came home with lots of strawberries. I still feel so accomplished!

Picking strawberries!

Picking strawberries!

Maybe next year I’ll even post a recipe as inspiration before picking season starts. Whoa. No need to get too far ahead of myself. At least this will be in the archives so I won’t forget that it happened summer of 2015 and how I updated that almond crumble.

Speaking of which, it’s for sure a toss up what this recipe is about. Is it the berries or the crumble? It’s the perfect food couple.

strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

I have loved the taste of almond paste in this dessert, only this past spring I noticed the brand I bought included a glucose syrup that had wheat starch in it. For my gluten free friends, this usually won’t do. So I began playing with almonds instead of using the pre-made paste.

Sweet berries topped with warm butter almond cookie like crumbles? Turns out this combo is just the dessert to celebrate the summer season.

she made it: gluten free strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

While you won’t find desserts sitting around our house on a daily basis, we for sure don’t ban them. Somewhere along the way, our family just adopted some sugar-less practices that have stuck. We’ve landed on wanting dessert to be really worth it, and most of the time we save it for special celebrations or seasonal highs like this.

strawberry rhubarb a la mode

Crumble this almond topping on blueberries or peaches next time? I think so.

Here you go!

Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Crumbles
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Makes: 4
Ingredients
Fruit Filling:
  • 2½ cups fresh strawberries hulled and quartered
  • 1½ cups fresh rhubarb sliced
  • ⅛ cup sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
Almond Topping:
  • ½ cup blanched almond slivers
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup gluten free all purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Gently combine prepared strawberries, rhubarb, ⅛ cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Set aside to rest while you make the topping.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, toss in ½ cup blanched almond slivers. Process until completely ground into almond meal, as fine as you can get it. Next add sugar and continue to puree. Add the soft butter and whiz until combined.
  4. Scrape paste into a medium bowl, add ½ cup gluten free flour on top of paste. With your fingers mix the flour into the paste, scrunching into crumbly pieces.
  5. Divide berry mixture into 4 ramekins. Crumble almond mixture atop the fruit, using all the crumble that you can between the 4 servings.
  6. Set ramekins on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until fruit is bubbling and crumble is lightly browned.
  8. Let cool a bit to serve warm. If you make it ahead, cover and store in refrigerator. Reheat for 5 minutes or so in a preheated oven.
*I used 4 short oval dishes. If you don't want the juice to overflow as much, use taller custard dishes.

These strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles are the perfect way to celebrate summer!

Enjoy!

~Heather

 

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classic potato salad with pickled onions

Anybody out there craving a little 4th of July potato salad? We pull this recipe out at least once a summer over here. Tim grilled ribs for himself on Father’s Day, and we wanted the classics to go with them–corn on the cob and potato salad.

potato salad ingredients

Speaking of fathers, my Dad has always been the potato salad maker, whether he was cooking for a crowd at camp, a family gathering, or home. He swears he never added radishes, though I’m pretty sure I got that idea from him. I love the color and the crunch.

I also love pickled vegetables. They are super easy to make and keep on hand. This year I replaced my Dad’s suggested sweet pickle relish with some quick pickled red onions.

pickled onions

You can make these pickles right before you begin your potato salad and they’ll be ready in an hour. If you want them savory, skip the sugar. I usually double the recipe and make one jar savory and one jar sweet.

So get your eggs boiling,

hard-boiled egg

and while you are at it, your potatoes too.

boiled potatoes for potato salad

Put it all together, just in time for the 4th of July.

potato salad with pickled onions

I’m still undecided about what we are making over here on the 4th. As of last night, we have it narrowed down to about 6 different non-classic ideas. What? While I get on that, I thought I’d share with you an oldie but goodie and a perfect reason to love your lunch on the 5th, if you have any leftovers. Here you go!

Classic Potato Salad with Pickled Onions
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Makes: 15
Ingredients
  • 5 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1¾ cups of mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons pickled onion or relish juice (sweet or savory)
  • ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 small bunch of radishes, ends removed and diced
  • ½ cup celery diced, 1-2 stalks
  • Garnishes: pickled red onions (see below) and/or snipped chives
Instructions
  1. Cover quartered and peeled potatoes with water, 1 teaspoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, set to simmer for about 15 minutes until just tender. Taste test potatoes to see if they are done to your liking. Not too crunchy, not to mushy. Let them go another 5 minutes if needed.
  2. Remove hard yolks from egg whites. Mash the egg yolks and put in a medium bowl. Dice the egg whites and set aside.
  3. In your medium bowl with egg yolks, whisk in mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Refrigerate dressing until ready to serve.
  4. Dice radishes and celery and set aside with egg whites.
  5. Once potatoes are done, drain them gently and let them cool while spread out on a cookie sheet to dry.
  6. When cool enough to handle, slice each potato quarter into ½ inch pieces. Lightly salt these potato slices.
  7. In a large bowl combine cooled potatoes, celery, radishes, egg whites and dressing. Stir gently to combine. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and/or extra pickle juice to adjust the taste to your liking. (This process of tasting makes for the best potato salad each time, don't skip it!)
  8. Garnish with pickled onions and chopped chives.

Pickled Red Onions
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Makes: 8 oz jar of pickles
Ingredients
  • ½ red onion sliced or diced
  • ¼ cup white or cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • optional: 2-3 teaspoons of sugar for sweet pickles
  • 1 small jam jar or container with lid
Instructions
  1. Fill jar with sliced or chopped onion pieces
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the remaining ingredients together to dissolve salt and/or sugar.
  3. Pour liquid mixture over your onions.
  4. Top your jar with the lid and shake it up and down a few times.
  5. Let your onions sit room temperature for at least an hour before using.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers for a couple weeks.
  7. Recipe can easily be multiplied.

classic potato salad with pickled onions

Enjoy!

~H

 

 

 

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how to make a hard-boiled egg

A couple of weeks ago I shared my new skill, the over-easy egg.

Here’s an egg skill I’ve been repeating for years, the hard-boiled egg.

boiling eggs

Obviously I’m not the first to say this, but I do not like green eggs. I like them yellow, especially if I am making something like potato salad or deviled eggs. Green no. Yellow yes. I’m sure we agree.

hard boiled egg

If overcooked, hard boiled eggs are dry and rubbery. Isn’t that the way they are supposed to be? No, thank you.

I’m not about there being one right way to do most things in the kitchen, so however you get your egg job done is up to you, but here is my tried and true.

1. Place eggs in pan. Pour water over eggs, just until covered.

cover eggs with water

2. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.

bring eggs to a boil

3. As soon as the water starts to boil, cover the put with a lid, turn off the heat, and leave it to sit on the burner. Set your timer for 14 minutes.

egg timer

4. Drain the water and recover with cold water. Set your timer for 2 minutes.

egg timer

5. Drain the water a second time. Holding the lid on the pan with both hands, gently shake eggs back and forth, for about 10 seconds, to crack all the shells against each other. Do this gently so you don’t bust open all your eggs. Peel the eggs.

peel hard boiled eggs

6. The shells should slip off pretty easily. If not, take your time, crack them some more, rinse under cold water perhaps, and keep peeling bit by bit.

hard boiled eggs

I like to store hard boiled eggs in a container with a paper towel to absorb all the moisture. Unless of course we eat them warm and mashed up with butter, salt, and pepper. Hello, nostalgic breakfast from the 80’s, right there on your plate.

Enjoy!

hard-boiled eggs
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By:
Makes: 1 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 dozen eggs
Instructions
  1. Place eggs in pan. Pour water over eggs, just until covered.
  2. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.
  3. As soon as the water starts to boil, cover the put with a lid, turn off the heat, and leave it to sit on the burner. Set your timer for 14 minutes.
  4. Drain the water and recover with cold water. Set your timer for 2 minutes.
  5. Drain the water a second time. Holding the lid on the pan with both hands, gently shake eggs back and forth, for about 10 seconds, to crack all the shells against each other. Do this gently so you don’t bust open all your eggs. Peel the eggs.
  6. The shells should slip off pretty easily. If not, take your time, crack them some more, rinse under cold water perhaps, and keep peeling bit by bit.

~H

*Note: I recently read that the fresher the egg, the harder they are to peel. I’ve found this to be true. I like to buy eggs and hard boil them a few days after they’ve sat in my fridge.

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