Simple Lemon and Arugula Pasta

Editor’s note: I’m very happy to welcome Courtney from Cook like a Champion blog as the newest contributor to the site!

If there’s ever a time when I don’t feel like cooking, it’s in the middle of summer. I don’t know if it’s the long days (more time to play) or the fact that it’s too hot to stand over the stove, but I always struggle with what to cook in July.

There’s an abundance of produce at my farmer’s market, but it’s all so perfect I almost hate to even cook it. July is the month to appreciate quick meals with fresh ingredients.

There are plenty of nights I’d be fine having a salad or even cheese and crackers for dinner, but I obviously can’t go the entire month without cooking dinner. That’s where recipes like this one come in. The only thing that has to be cooked is the pasta.

The residual heat from the hot pasta cooks everything else, creating a simple and delicious meal that can be enjoyed on the hottest of days. Even better, this pasta tastes just as fantastic at room temperature, which means it would be great for a picnic or potluck.

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Creamy New Potatoes with Bacon and Chives

If you want to feel good about your gardening skills, you should grow potatoes. They don’t give you any trouble, don’t need staking or thinning, and yield a good crop at the end of the summer – or earlier.

My boys grow our potatoes, taking care of everything from cutting the seed potatoes and placing them in the earth – ‘eyes at the sky’- to weeding and occasionally hilling around the plants. Undoubtedly, though, the best fun is at harvest, when they climb into the raised beds with their toy shovels and fling dirt everywhere like a couple of pirates searching for treasure.

When they’ve collected a small bucketful of potatoes and hosed them off, we always head for the kitchen, especially if these are the first spuds of the summer. A freshly-dug potato, boiled and buttered, is one of life’s little pleasures.

Mateo is already wondering aloud when it will be time to dig for potatoes, but with all of our rain and cool temperatures, the garden is slow to mature this summer. In the meantime, we’re enjoying new, locally grown spuds and I have a favorite new side dish that’s made with them.

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Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

We’re celebrating. Again! I know, it’s been a very good spring. The festivities planned for today are both of the birthday nature, as we honor both Danny and Canada simultaneously on this first day on July.

This red and white strawberry ice cream cake is how this party gets started. It is equal parts of vanilla ice cream and yogurt blended together and layered with strawberry honey jam. It couldn’t be simpler and it looks pretty on the plate.

You should serve it with a drizzle of strawberry coulis, or a big bowl of fresh or roasted strawberries, ideally, straight from the berry patch.

Speaking of u-picks, we are taking advantage of our national holiday, and jumping out the door this morning to pick strawberries. This post will be short, like strawberry season. I have to preserve the fruit before it is too late.

But I leave you with ice cream cake.

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Homemade Orange Soda Recipe

The moment we were allowed to each summer, my sister and I would collect our quarters and jump on our bikes. We’d weave through our suburban streets, heading off in the direction of the asphalt path that would lead to the corner store.

Bike locks optional, we’d lean our pedals and handlebars against the brown brick exterior and head inside, the cold blast of air conditioning hitting us in the face and prying our eyelids open on the way in. In the back corner we’d sit, staring through the floor-to-ceiling cooler doors at the bottles of colored soda. [Read more…]

How to make soft whole wheat hot dog buns

June is the month when we air out our camping gear and study the calendar for the perfect weekend to pack up and spend a few days in nature.

Whether you are pitching a tent in the backyard or camping on a pebbly lake shore, cooking over an open fire is such a fun family experience. We generally stick to real food camping meals, but once in a while it’s fun to roast a sausage on a stick and wrap it in a soft bun. For our (mostly) whole foods family, this takes a bit of planning, but here’s how I prep for a cook-out.

We’ll go to a nearby farm we know of that sells lamb sausage, or we’ll pick up organic, all-beef hot dogs at our local market for the excursion, so finding whole-food sausage is fairly easily done. But then there is the problem of the buns, as I refuse to buy pasty, all-white buns that are filled with sugar and who knows what else. I’ll consume these at the occasional hockey game, but I sure am not stocking up on them for a camping trip.

Homemade Whole Wheat Hotdog Buns on Simple Bites | www.simplebites.net

Our local health food store sells some decent unprocessed hot dog buns, but they cost a pretty penny, and around here we’re all about eating well and spending less. In fact, it’s my theme for this post, along with summer food to go.

So, for the past two summers I’ve been making my hot-dog buns and they are so, so great. A bit of butter and an egg in the dough keeps them soft, buttermilk gives the buns a nice tangy flavor,  and the whole wheat flour makes for a substantial roll that can hold up to the heftiest sausage.

Read on for the recipe and more suggestions for fireside meals.

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