The Rich Days of Summer

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So it seems that the chaos post-graduation never dies down it just changes. This last week has been frantic trying to get the garden done and planted. Each day has been a very special reminder of hot sun, chores, bugs, and rewarding products!! I finally spruced up the herb garden and found the mint and lemon balm that was hiding in it (yay!!).

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Even though my body is still transitioning into hot weather and constant bending, weeding, lifting, and tilling, the end of each day has felt rather good. Merlin and I have finally gotten some long lost projects done and each night we have been rewarded by special eats on the porch together. We have especially been rewarded by fresh asparagus (which is good just raw or lightly cooked with butter and a squirt of lemon juice), and cool fresh well water (which Merlin took the initiative to pour over his head quite a bit while working).

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Last night was particularly special because the night ended in front of the big window listening to Merlin tell stories of Middle Earth…boy was it magical (particularly since we moved our living room around so that our biggest window is more exposed now!). So I leave you with these recipes for some rather rich and rewarding meals with a touch of magic in each (…wine and herbs).

Spicy Hearty Vegetables

2 or 3 garlic cloves (depending on your taste for garlic)
1 medium yellow onion
~ 10 leaves of kale
4 medium carrots
1/2 a package of chopped shittake mushrooms
~ 2 or 3 Tbs. of fresh chopped oregano and chives
1 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup of red wine (I like to buy a cheap bottle and have it on hand for cooking)
~ 2 or 3 Tbs. of siracha (you can eyeball it depending on your taste for spice)
olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese shavings to taste

Chop up the garlic and onion and toss into a nice half inch thick layer of good quality (cold-pressed preferably) olive oil and a good crack of fresh pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Let them soften and caramelize a bit before adding other veggies (you can be chopping while you are waiting). I cut up the kale into strips because those are the bite sizes that I prefer, but you could do anything.

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Next, I added some inch long pieces or so of halved carrots and chopped shittake mushrooms (I figured the liquids would help to steam the carrots), I let all these vegetables cook up in the pan, with the lid on for a little added steaming. While I was waiting I went out to harvest the herbs in the garden, oregano, and chives, and chopped them up and tossed them in. Next I added in the can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes (they already have so much good flavor) and let that cook down until it was like a thick stew or sauce (not long, 5 or 10 mins on medium-low).

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Lastly, I added the red wine and a spiral of siracha and let some of the wine cook off. I like the nice thick hearty spicy vegetables (reminds me of Moosewood recipes), so I cook off a lot of liquid, but you could keep it a thinner consistency for different purposes. Sprinkle with some parmesan and enjoy!!

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Notes: I ate this just by itself, but it would make a fantastic pasta or spaghetti squash topping. One of our old favorite things to do with this recipe is to put it on top of polenta rounds lightly browned in some oil and butter, mmm… Also, feel free to change any vegetables depending on the season. It’s good to have a variety of root and leafy because the tomato does a nice job bringing them all together.

So, don’t ask me why on hot summer days I always walk into the kitchen and want to cook something grand…It really is just too hot and the meals are fairly heavy, but sometimes I just need to try out some creative eats haha. At least in between gardening we feasted on light lunches and picnicky snacks…mmmm

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There sure is nothing like a little cheese and crackers especially when it is hobbit cheese and seed crackers…mmm…(Thank you Lilly for the fabulous introduction to Mary’s Gone Crackers, now I can’t live without!!)

After our trip to Boston we remembered we had a little bit of a Trader Joe’s gift card left (I think that was just an excuse…) and that driving through Portland would be the perfect opportunity to get groceries. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I get inspired to come up with my own little pre-packaged meals (no need to buy them when you can make them!!). So, that’s sort of what spawned these two recipes. The one below is made with mostly TJ’s stuff, I like to go a little less processed, but it works for a quick meal (I’m thinking like a Momma here). What really inspired the theme was this gorgeous loaf of rustic olive bread from a bakery in Freeport (I could have honestly just had that with a soft cheese I think!!). Anyhow, these at least reflect what we’ve been up to…and maybe the need for a lighter, less dwarf-like fare…possibly more elven or even hobbit-like next time.

I had the hearty vegetables accompanied by this lovely pasta dish….rich, but good…

Herb/Alfredo-Inspired Tortellini (or ravioli or gnocchi or quinoa pasta or …)

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TJ’s package of cheese tortellini
half a jar of TJ’s extra garlic cooking/simmer sauce (beware vegetarians!! It has chicken broth, didn’t realize till after…)
~2-3 ounces of cream cheese
~6-8 slices of TJ’s “Unexpected Cheddar” (ya it’s hobbit cheese..hehe)
1/2 a package of sliced shittake mushrooms
~ 4 or 5 chives chopped up
olive oil
pepper
parmesan to taste

Boil desired pasta (in this case cheese tortellini was fine, but filling, it would be fun to try quinoa pasta and veggies, gnocci, or even a butternut squash ravioli) and toss with some olive oil. For the sauce sauté up the mushrooms in a thin layer of olive oil just long enough for them to lose their liquid. Then pour in the trader joes garlic cooking sauce (for this size recipe I only used about half of the jar maybe a little less) and add some cracked pepper (the sauce is already plenty salty especially once cheese is added). I let this all simmer together for about a minute or two before adding the cream cheese. Stir that in really well until you get the desired consistency (should be something like a creamy sauce on the thicker side). Then go ahead and add in the cheddar and parmesan (also feel free to try different types of cheese). Once everything seems to be smooth and melty add in chopped chives and then you are pretty much all set to add it into your choice pasta!! If your pasta got cool you can warm it in the sauce and I made sure to top with cracked pepper and some parmesan…delicious!!

Notes: I would encourage you to use any ingredients that are closely related to the ones I have above. We had just done a trip to trader joe’s and I was in the mood for making some creative adaptations to some of the different ingredients and meals I saw there. One thing that I think could be especially fun is trying to make your own garlic simmer sauce, it seems pretty easy (white wine, many garlic cloves-roasted, broth, and cream). I haven’t done it yet because I never use my hand blender and that type of thing really requires some type of pureeing. Really the simmer sauce is acting as a sort of base for a spin-off of an Alfredo style sauce.

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Enjoy!!

Lovingly,
♥Angela

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