Tag Archives: summer

spicy quick-pickled spring radishes

I think that this very moment is the best setting ever to write a blog post. For that matter, to do anything! It is pouring rain outside. Not the pitter-patter peaceful kind, but the full-on, fiddler on the roof, batten down the hatches, tap-dancing until dawn kind of rain! I say, bring it!

As many of you know, I spend a few of my evenings working as a sommelier at a restaurant. The place happens to have a most splendid patio. If you have ever worked within the service or hospitality industry, you know that “patio season” is more or less a nightmare. You are constantly scrolling through your weather app feeds and performing audacious rain dances to skirt the afternoon showers, in order to keep your guests satisfied. It is quite the ordeal. I am an anomaly within this field, however: I am secretly jumping for joy inside, when it rains. It means my garden is getting drenched, and it means that I don’t have to tote the hose around our yard and water by hand the next day. Hooray for summer storms that deliver!

We just picked {and pickled!} the last of our spring French Breakfast radishes. We planted them by seed and in succession in early April and have harvested four rounds of radishes. This last go-round was a little spicy and a tad pithy, which can happen when harvesting late in the season, but they were perfect for pickling. Pickling covers a multitude of sins, but it can also bring out the best in vegetables.

Have you pickled before? It seems daunting and suggests the need for fancy equipment. Not necessarily so. Enter quick pickling, or as I lovingly name it, quickling. I touched on this subject last year, when I had a surplus amount of cucumbers. Almost anything can be quickled, and radishes do quite well with this method.

My attention was grabbed about a month ago by Cookie + Kate’s recipe for pickling spring radishes. So simple and fast. I added a few finishing touches of my own, and I have been pickling my radishes ever since. This particular recipe yielded one half-pint of pickled radishes, or about 1 1/2 cups.


spicy quick-pickled spring radishes


  • 1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced {about 12 radishes or 1 cup, sliced}
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup Champagne vinegar {or white or apple cider}
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • about 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • a few pieces of dill leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove
  1. Scrub your radishes and slice them thinly. If you are brave and skilled, you can use a mandolin. You can also use a very sharp knife to slice paper-thin pieces of this pink root vegetable.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water, vinegar, agave nectar, and sea salt to a boil, dissolving the sea salt.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Place the sliced radishes into a clean Mason jar and pour the pickling liquid over top.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill leaves, and garlic clove to the jar.
  6. Cover with lid and let cool.
  7. Once the jar’s contents have cooled, place the jar in the refrigerator. I removed my garlic clove at this point. I learned my lesson another time, when I let the garlic clove hang out in the jar for about a week. The radishes took on too intense of a garlic note. Just a touch is enough!
  8. Enjoy!

I have been sprinkling these pink treats on my summer green salads, tossing them on black bean tacos, and using them in relishes. Quickling is one way to use up your excess produce and prolong its enjoyment throughout the season. Use quick-pickled radishes within a month, noting that they taste best within about two weeks of the pickling date. Did you grow radishes this season? Are you pickling anything weird from your garden? The weirdest things I have pickled to date are yellow summer squash slices. I actually loooooved them atop burritos, alongside tacos, and graced over summer tortilla soup. I am not growing them this summer, but a friend of mine is. That’s where gardening friends come into play – tradesies!

Have a great week ahead and enjoy the goodness at hand. It is beautiful, delicious, and fleeting. Savor it, while it is here, and preserver it for later. Goodbye, radish season; it was fun!

strawberry shortcake {dairy-free and gluten-free}

I am really having a difficult time focusing and staying on task lately. In fact, I have an imposing deadline looming over me right this very moment, as I type. I am definitely placing some of the blame on this crazy heat wave for at least some of my lack of enthusiasm. We all know that we feel better, once we’ve tackled our projects, so why do we procrastinate and endure that itchy, uncomfortable feeling of putting things off?

I’ve brought up this topic before; it is definitely a recurring theme in my life. I find that I frequently become the most creative and productive, when I am pushing off something big, but doing that is a double-edged sword. I end up taking on more projects or coming up with great ideas, while postponing that all-important one. That’s where these shortcakes came in yesterday: a tasty and distracting diversion that supplanted my original goal of completing three writing assignments. The shortcakes turned out amazingly well, and I temporarily felt accomplished. About those writing assignments? They are still inchoate, but I am at least enjoying something tasty, as I scramble to finish my goal tonight.

I definitely enjoy my fair share of butter, cheese, and cream. I am finding, however, that my body truly feels better, when I abstain from dairy. It is just rather daunting, as a baker and cook, to realize that you have to change some of your practices and learn how to create delicious food without those components. I feel like I have just mastered baking, so it is a challenge to learn new techniques and find substitutes, so that my treats still taste great and have a palatable consistency. I have had quite a few failures, but this particular dessert came through. Baby steps. And my boyfriend, who is the biggest critic on all things delicious, gave it his well-earned nod of approval.

I didn’t even need to add a lot of sugar because the berries are tasting amazing right now. If only I could grow some in my garden! For some reason, they just don’t like the soil in my backyard. That’s okay, though. There are plenty of other things that are coming along quite nicely right now. Zucchini is just about to take off, and the dill and parsley are cranking. Salads have become a daily staple around here, which balances out my craving for sweet things.


strawberry shortcake {dairy-free and gluten-free}


  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 pound organic strawberries
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • coconut whipped cream {see recipe below}

This recipe is a slight adaptation from the Nourishing Home. I stumbled upon this blog, when I was looking for almond flour shortcake recipes, and I am completely inspired by the recipes I encountered. Alright, ready for some shortcakes? Me, too.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together the almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla.
  4. Separately whisk together the eggs and incorporate into the coconut oil mixture.
  5. Mix the coconut oil mixture into the almond flour mixture. I used a fork to break apart any clumps and distribute the moisture evenly. See the texture in the photo with the closeup of the fork.
  6. Form the shortcakes into six equally sized balls of dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking pan. I flattened them out slightly. Kelly mentions that you can roll out the dough and use a cutter for interesting shapes. I opted for the drop biscuit approach.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown in color.
  8. Let shortcakes cool before serving.
  9. While your shortcakes are baking, you can assemble the strawberry topping. Simply hull the strawberries and slice them up. Place them in a bowl and add the raw sugar and lemon juice. The sugar will incorporate with the berries and become a lovely consistency for your shortcakes.
  10. Once the shortcakes have cooled, split them in halves and layer with strawberries and a dollop or two of whipped coconut cream.


coconut whipped cream


  • one can {15 ounces} full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • agave nectar to taste {2-3 teaspoons}

This was my second attempt at making coconut whipped cream. The first attempt was a fail because I purchased the wrong coconut milk. Be sure to select full-fat version, from the can, without any guar gum. I credit Angela from Oh She Glows for my success. Her tutorial on how to prepare coconut whipped cream is comprehensive and easy to understand. I won’t attempt duplicating her steps. Just go to her site and bookmark the recipe!

Simply refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight. When you are ready to make the whipped cream, invert the can, open the top, and drain out the watery substance into a separate container. {You can use that leftover, nutrient-rich coconut water for your smoothies!} You will be left with the pure cream at the bottom of the can. Spoon this out into your mixer and blast until creamy and smooth. Add any sweetener or vanilla, and enjoy! It is my new staple in the kitchen. I keep a few cans in my fridge, so I will always have a vegan whipped cream option on hand.

Well, send me some luck tonight! I am successfully caffeinated and prepped for a marathon writing session. I hope everyone’s fourth of July celebrations were fun and filled with all things celebratory and delicious. Mine surely was; although, I didn’t go out to view any fireworks. Kinda bummed about that, but there’s always next year. Cheers! And let me know of any favorite gluten-free recipes that you’ve been enjoying lately. I am upping my repertoire weekly!

brandied summer cherries

I have been patiently waiting for cherry season. As soon as I spied some sweet, ripe, organic cherries, I grabbed about two pounds’ worth and headed home, bursting with ideas on how to capture their ripeness. Of course, I couldn’t resist selecting a handful of the ripest, juiciest ones I could find, right there in the car. It got messy pretty quickly, but I really could have cared less.

I have been thinking about preserving cherries, ever since I saw Kristy Gardner’s bourbon-soaked cherries a while back. She pretty much writes the book on all-things-bourbon, so that’s definitely another upcoming project. For now, since I had some leftover brandy from a recent sangria experiment, I went with a juiced-up, brandied version. They’re super easy and delicious, and they will go perfectly with one of my barrel-aged Manhattans {debuting in my kitchen in about a month!}.

If you have ripe cherries at your fingertips, use them; otherwise, frozen cherries will work just fine. I did walk away with a few tips from the cherry-pitting process:

  1. Wear an apron. If that is not an option, drape a towel over yourself. You’ll thank me.
  2. Maybe invest in a cherry-pitter. I tried using a paperclip, but I ended up loving a simple kebob skewer.
  3. Pour yourself a nice, big glass of wine, find a friend to help, and play a good set of music. This takes a while. I drank a little of this deliciousness {Stolpman “l’Avion” Roussanne, 2011, Santa Ynez Valley, one of my fave summer wines ever} and listened to this {Etherwood’s self-titled, gorgeous drum-and-bass album, on repeat right now}.

Alright, let’s make some brandied cherries!


Brandied Summer Cherries


  • 1 pound ripe, organic cherries {I used Rainier}, and a little extra for juicing {optional}
  • 1/2 cup freshly juiced cherries {you may substitute water}
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/8 cup Cardamaro liqueur
  • 3/8 cup Solerno blood orange liqueur
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 pieces orange peel

If you want to keep it simple, just use brandy as your spirit component. I had a few interesting liqueurs on hand, so I went a little crazy. Another good option is to use 3/4 cup brandy with 1/4 cup orange liqueur, for some added bright citrus notes.


Steps for {the Most Amazing} Brandied Cherries


  1. Wash, de-stem, and pit your cherries.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherry juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. Bring to a low simmer, fully dissolving sugar, about five minutes, letting the spices integrate with the liquid.
  3. Remove from heat and add spirits {brandy, Cardamaro, and Solerno}, stirring to integrate.
  4. Remove cinnamon stick, cloves, and peel. Feel free to keep them, if you want a heavily spiced version of brandied cherries.
  5. Divide cherries into two half-pint canning jars.
  6. Evenly distribute the liquid into the two jars.
  7. Let the jars cool and then transfer into the refrigerator.

The brandied cherries will further develop in flavor over the course of a month. They taste best if used within four months, so this small batch recipe is the perfect size. They are delicious on their own and are the perfect garnish for a Manhattan. If you like a sweeter, fruitier Manhattan, toss a half ounce or so of the brandied cherry juice into your cocktail for added depth and flavor.

Feel free to experiment with the spirit component of this recipe! Try substituting rum, amaretto, or bourbon. I might add a vanilla bean with rum next time. Signing off with a close-up of the cherry-pitting aftermath and some recent garden captures. How are you preserving cherries or any of summer’s current treats? I need to expand my repertoire further! Cheers!

 

how to freeze summer tomatoes + life without a kitchen

For us, Labor Day was exactly what the holiday sounds like:  a day of actual labor and hard work.  I hope yours was much more relaxing; although, working hard is rewarding and satisfying in its own rite.  Today’s post might contain a lot more photos than usual, but posting them gives proof that gardening, harvesting, preserving, and cooking, again, is not dependent upon yard space or kitchen space.  Even though we are still existing without a finished kitchen, the garden continues to proliferate and demand our daily attention.  It has been a wonderful, exhilarating, challenging harvest season, but we’ve made it work…

Freezing Tomatoes:

  1. Select ripe, unblemished tomatoes.
  2. Thoroughly wash and remove stems and any bruised spots.
  3. Place tomatoes in the blender.  If tomatoes are large, slice in half for ease in the blender.  Blend away.
  4. Measure and pour the tomato mixture into freezer bags.  I measure out two cups per bag, so I can know exact amounts for a recipe.
  5. Remove the air from the bag {I use a straw here – #ghettostyle}, label with a Sharpie marker, and lay flat, horizontally in the freezer.  Once the bags have frozen, you can stand them up vertically, like a “filing system” in the freezer.

Tips for Freezing Tomatoes:

  • Freezing is fast and requires very little equipment – basically, a blender, a knife, freezer bags, and a Sharpie.
  • Preserving, in this method, keeps your kitchen heat-free, a bonus in the summer.
  • Use the thawed, puréed tomatoes in stews, soups, or sauces.  Don’t try substituting puréed, formerly frozen tomatoes, for a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes, or else you’ll end up with mushy tomatoes.  Gross.
  • Try to use the frozen, puréed tomatoes within four to six months, for optimal flavor.  If you are ever in doubt that something in your freezer or pantry has expired, check out StillTasty, a great resource for determining the shelf lives of many foods.
  • Instead of taking the time to de-seed and de-skin beforehand, we choose to purée and freeze the entire tomato. The gel surrounding the seeds actually imparts more flavor than the flesh of the tomato.  The skins impart even more anti-oxidant properties.  Why limit your taste and your nutritional impact?  Read more about retaining the seeds and skins of the tomato here, via the Kitchn.

For today’s post, I am reflecting on the cue, suggested by You Grow Girl‘s “Grow-Write-Guild-Prompt-Eleven.”  I am joining the party a little over ten posts too late, but I am still on board with their concept of writing about your garden, capturing what is happening right now, and sharing mishaps, successes, recipes, and must-to-dos, along the way.

What was happening last year both in the garden and in the kitchen?  Well, like this summer, the tomatoes were pumping, and I had a kitchen, for one…  Without the ability to seriously can, this year, I am relegated to quick-pickling and freezing most of my produce.  I am almost ready to purchase another freezer; room is running out.  Black Krims always do well, but I have noticed that my early fertilizing has hindered my tomatoes’ fruit output later in the season.  I have learned, this year, to fertilize after the initial flowers have shown, and to prune large, unnecessary leaves, so that the plant can direct its energy to producing quality, limited tomatoes.  The key is to concentrate the plant’s energy to the task it has at hand.  I have also learned to plant vegetables with different vegetables; in other words, no monocultures.  Why?  Fewer diseases, better plant cohabitation, more efficient water usage, and better quality fruit production.

Crisp, toasted bagels, with sliced Black Krim tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil…this is my most favorite summer decadency.

How have I best used my abundance of heirloom tomatoes in my garden this summer?  By simply cutting them off the vine, washing them, slicing them up, and serving them alongside a chiffonade of basil, some crumbled Avalanche goat cheese, sea salt, cracked pepper, and a drizzle of white truffle oil.  I serve this on top of toasted “everything” bagels, and they are a memorable capture of summer’s bounty.  So easy…

And after a brief argument on where to plant the cool season crops and whether or not to include tomato seeds in the pasta sauce, we took a break to enjoy a shot of whiskey and a “pickle-back.”  The rich, savory component of the whiskey is accentuated by the briny, sharp, acidic pickle brine.  You may have some pickling brine left over, if you made some “quickles” last week.  Make this decadent and unique treat; you won’t be under-stimulated.  You might possibly be disappointed {I doubt it}, but it won’t be boring…at the very least, try something new, for once!

Next step in the garden, that afternoon:  snipping ripe basil and parsley leaves, washing them, and placing them into the dehydrator.  This was Steve’s job today.  My job was to collect the appropriate lighting necessary to capture the herb’s verdant nature and the energy in the moment.

With respect to herbs:  pick appropriately, wash, spin, dry, store, and repeat.  I absolutely love my very cheaply purchased dehydrator from Bed Bath & Beyond.  I have two of these, and I want two more.

Freshly picked Japanese “fairy tale” eggplant, ready to be de-stemmed and washed.

Washing our vegetables outside in the stockpot. Despite our lack of running water, we are able to wash our produce and preserve it.

We take all of our leftover water that was used for washing, boiling, and cooking, and we use it to water our newly planted drought-tolerant grasses and vegetables. #reduce #reuse #recycle …in that order!

Carrot top greens, onion skins, spinach stalks, used as stock components.

Making stock on the back porch, using a crock pot.

Purple cabbage head forming…ready in a couple of weeks.

Multi-colored heirloom carrots, pulled from the ground today.

Half-ripe cantaloupe…ready in about two weeks. This was a “happy accident” that we planted. When the school’s community garden received donated plants, this was one of the “left-overs” or the “not-planted.” There is only one fruit on the vine. Planting will be worth it, even if this is the only melon harvested.

Heirlooms from the garden plot:  Brandywines, Black Krims, German Johnsons…
#tomatobag

Community-supported flowers: water, cultivate, and pick appropriately.

Cosmos, sunflower, dill, marigolds…

homemade herbal tea + fruit ice cubes

These sweltering, lazy afternoons are just begging for iced tea, time spent outside and a possible dip in a cool stream.  Well, that is exactly what happened recently.  I don’t have air conditioning in my house, so sometimes, it is necessary to scope out the coolest spot around and take full advantage of its offerings!  Looking back, this particular day was especially meaningful to me:  one of my dearest friends and I hung out, for what I thought was one of the last days I would see her in a while.  While hiking at Lair-o-the-Bear Park near Morrison, Colorado, she let me know that she soon would be moving back to her home state of Michigan to look for a teaching job.  The hike was the only activity we had thoughtfully planned, but upon hearing the news, we decided to make the most of that day and soak up the time we had together.  We searched out a cool stream, started by simply wading into the water, and, after one crazy suggestion, we decided to fully submerge ourselves, in our hiking clothes, and sit in Bear Creek, passing the time and reminiscing for a good 30 minutes.  Cleansing…

In our busy, chaotic, and scheduled lives, we sometimes forget that the small, intimate, seemingly mundane moments are what actually comprise most of our lives.  The quiet moments spent perusing the morning paper, over coffee, accompanied by a soft sigh.  The seconds, when we gather our belongings, grab our keys, close the door to our car, and take in the golden colors of the late summer afternoon sun.  The times where we accidentally meet eyes with our loved ones, while doing the dishes, folding laundry, or piecing together the last perfectly composed bite on our plate.  Pauses.  Those are the moments that give “life” to our lives.  If we fail to appreciate the spontaneity, the accidents, the in-between times, we fail to embrace the richness and uniqueness of our limited days.  Those moments are the most important ones…

I took the time to craft some herbal tea recently.  With some dried herbs of my own and some that I purchased from Apothecary Tinctura, a local herbal shop in town, I mixed a hodgepodge blend that seemed cheery, calming, and delicious, all at once.  I selected a handful of licorice, a small handful of orange peel, a handful of hibiscus, a handful of lemon balm, a few rose hips, and a generous handful of chamomile.  I am loosely assembling a recipe, here, as you can see.  I combined the ingredients and stored them in a Mason jar for today’s use and for a few other brewing sessions in the near future.

I scooped a cupful of the dried herb blend and placed it into a large jar.  I added about two quarts of boiling water and let it sit and steep for about ten minutes in the sunshine.  I let the mixture cool and added some honey, as a sweetener, and a little lemon juice to brighten it up.

I save bulk, glass jars that formerly stored green bar olives. These large jars are perfect for batching drinks and soups or simply storing dried herbs. I currently have two of these jars filled with dried peppers, waiting to be integrated into our spicy dried pepper blend.

Another great touch to add to an iced tea of any sort is fruit-composed ice cubes.  I chose to make some ice cubes, freezing a piece of fruit within each cube.  I will have to try the lovely example I saw at Los Dos Aikos, where the blog’s author, Jaclyn, and her daughter puréed fruit and froze it in heart- and star-shaped molds.  It turned out adorably!  Read more about their how-to, here.

On a whim, I spied these ice cube trays at Whole Foods. You can also find them at Bed Bath & Beyond.

To make the cubes, simply add your choice of fruit to the trays, fill with water, and freeze.  I add them to iced teas, iced water, and even cocktails to brighten up the drink with fruity notes, as the ice melts.  The berries make a colorful statement to the beverage; it is such an easy way to take your drinks to another level of style and taste!

While I was waiting for my fruit cubes to freeze, I entertained Stacey’s rag doll kitty, Willow. She is notorious for photo bombs and “taste-testing” recipes!

I added the frozen fruit cubes to my herbal tea, and I was immediately summoned to my favorite chair on my back porch.  Summertime sipping simply encourages reflection.  I am grateful for my friends, like Stacey, who actively embrace a love of the current moment.  And I am happy for learning how to enjoy life in the midst of perceived chaos and uncertainty.  On a very happy note, I learned that Stacey received a job here in town, just before she began packing, and will not be moving back to Michigan.  Willow will still be able to visit me and the garden, we will purposefully take many more hikes in the future, and I will capitalize on the richness of my friendships and not take them for granted.  You never know when things may change.

Herbal tea and raspberry ice cubes, garnished with a sprig of freshly cut thyme.

Our first hike of the day, Deer Creek Canyon. I love this trail that overlooks the “hog back,” or the Front Range of Colorado. You can see downtown Denver off in the distance.

Stacey and her dog, Lucy, at Lair-o-the-Bear Park.

Jayme on the left, Stacey on the right, just after our soaking session in the stream.