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Summer in the Kitchen

June 24, 2014

My favorite time of year to cook is summer. Growing up in Northern California taught me an appreciation for seasonal and fresh foods, and while I enjoy every season’s own taste and goodness, Summer has a sweetness, a freshness that is all its own. There is something magical about biting into the first local strawberry, or the last cherry tomato of the harvest. Choosing my menus based on what is in the garden or at the farmer’s market makes cooking a bit more fun and spontaneous.

One of the requests that I hear from my boys every year is to take all their meals out of doors. Picnics become the norm, and our kitchen table is replaced by our patio table as we eat breakfast and lunch and dinner under the sky. There are a few staples that I just could not go without, and this year flavored lemonade, veggie pasta with basil aioli, and raw vegan pie are just a few that will grace our table (or picnic blanket) often.

Making homemade lemonade is one of those sticky sweet traditions that I remember with such fondness from my childhood in the northeast. My tiny town in suburban Boston would be littered with stands selling fresh lemonade for a nickle, and there was never a hot day that went by that my mother did not allow me to indulge.

Today making fresh lemonade holds the same appeal, and adding pureed fruit has become a welcome addition. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are perfect for changing this up, and the addition of rosemary, mint and basil adds a special kick. Cherry lemonade is on our summer solstice menu, and steeping this drink with rosemary for a few hours creates an aromatic drink for both children and adults alike. It can also become the base for an afternoon cocktail with friends.

Cherry Rosemary Lemonade

3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
Juice of 6 lemons
4 cups cold water
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped.
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water and heat on low until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Add the syrup mixture to the lemon juice and the 4 cups of cold water and stir. Pour the lemonade into a blender and combine with the cherries. Add the rosemary sprigs to a pitcher and pour the cherry lemonade over it. Allow to steep for 2 hours. Serve over ice.


No matter where a picnic is held, from our backyard to the banks of the Poudre River, I like simple and fresh cooking. Packing my basket should be simple, and clean up almost non-existent. Pasta salad has been a tradition in my family since long before I came along, and that tradition has come along with me as I have had children. Although a great pasta salad is always a hit, we are also a gluten free family who has had their fair share of misses in the pasta department.

Gluten free pasta tends to soak up sauce quicker than standard pasta, and so when creating a cold (or room temperature) pasta dish, I like to make a sauce that is thick, creamy, and will hold up to the GF pasta.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Prosciutto, Zucchini, and Lemon Basil Aioli


4 oz prosciutto
1 small zucchini
16 golden or red cherry tomatoes
Basil, torn as a topping
1 lb pasta


2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
Juice of one lemon
1 medium garlic clove
2 tbsp mustard
zest of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup light olive oil-based mayonnaise
Pinch of cayenne

Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, add your prosciutto to a pan and sautee until golden brown. Set aside. Slice zucchini in ribbons, and cut the tomatoes in half. Set aside.

To make the aioli, process of all of your ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor, and set aside.

Once your pasta is done cooking, add to a large bowl, and toss with vegetables. Add the aioli and stir until the pasta is completely coated. Top with torn basil and prosciutto.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Of course, no picnic is ever complete without the addition of pie. Recently I have fallen in love with the creamy and incredibly good for you raw vegan pies. There is something so satisfying to eating a delicious and healthy treat at the end of each meal. I first learned about how to make this type of pie from Heather of Beauty that Moves, and her recipes continue to inspire many changes in our diet and well being.

On of our family’s favorites is raw vegan lemon cream pie with blackberry coulis. The recipe is simple, the taste fresh, and the smiles plentiful. We hope that this recipe will be enjoyed by your family as much as it has been by ours.

Raw Vegan Lemon Cream Pie with Blackberry Coulis


1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates (pitted and soaked overnight)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pie Filling

3 cups of whole cashews (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup agave nectar
4 dates
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup coconut oil melted
3 tbsp. cold water

Blackberry Filling Base
6 oz. Blackberries

Place the pecans and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients.  The crust should just stick together. Press it into the bottom of a deep dish pie plate, and freeze until filling is ready.

Blend your blackberries in the bowl of a food processor or a blender until just slightly pureed. Pour into your crust.

For the filling, add all of your ingredients into a blender and blend until creamy. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 tbsp of water at a time. Pour the filling over the blackberry filling, and freeze until firm. You can eat as is, or top with blackberry coulis.

Blackberry Coulis

Add one cup of blackberries and 2 tbsp agave nectar to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the pie and enjoy.

Summer in the kitchen is so very sweet, and from our table to yours, we wish you the best that the season has to offer.


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Summer has finally arrived. I love the solstice, every bit of it. I am a hot weather human, and the more the sun cranks up the happier I am. In many ways I am quite the opposite of my children, who would prefer a snow covered mountain to a blazing hot trail, but to each his own I suppose.

We mark this day a different way each year. Unlike the winter solstice, there are no traditions in the summer season. We take things as they come, as the weather permits, and as our life allows. This summer we are knee deep in painting the inside of our home, and we are pushing to get it done in the next three weeks. We promised ourselves that we would take the day to relax, which was much needed for all of us.

Last year Jacob and I decided to plant a patch of chamomile in an area of the garden that has been hard to break up the clay. It is an area that we wanted to use, but year after year nothing thrived. Last year we put in some rhubarb and chamomile, and what do you know, both have come back so strong. We have had more chamomile than we know what to do with, so we have been trying to come up with ways to use it before it goes to seed for the year.

When I first joined Pinterest, I remember seeing this picture of chamomile cakes that drew my eye. I think that it was one of the first things I ever pinned. The recipe came from Joy the Baker, and it looked amazing. I never managed to pick up Joy’s book from the library (still on my to-do list), but yesterday I just had a need to make some chamomile cupcakes. I used my favorite gluten free vanilla cake mix, and rather than water I substituted very strong brewed chamomile tea. The flavor was subtle, but noticeable. For the frosting I used a standard buttercream, but again instead of milk or cream, I substituted with 2 tbsp of the same strong tea, and left out any vanilla extract. It was magical. The cupcakes were gone in less than an hour (thank goodness I delivered some to a friend, or else I fear how many I would have eaten). I have to admit that when I first went to put together this recipe, I thought that maybe this was going to be an epic fail. I love the flavor of chamomile, but it can be very strong at times, and it doesn’t necessarily blend with other flavors easily. I am glad that I was wrong in this case, as this one was a winner all around, and will certainly grace our table many more times this season.

I had a lot of tea left over with these cupcakes, and as it was indeed a hot first day of summer we decided to make some popsicles from it. We simply took the tea, a few sprigs of fresh mint from the garden, a few chunks of fresh ginger, a tablespoon or two of honey, and some strawberries and simmered them with the chamomile tea. Once cool, we removed the mint, blended everything else together, and a few hours later we were sitting in the backyard cooling down. Fresh and pretty darn healthy. I wish my kids would be content with this kind of treat more often.

The night ended with sparklers, as all first nights of summer should. I feel like my kids really have a sense of the things that mark a holiday or special occasion for them. They were clear that we had to have watermelon at dinner, something yellow for breakfast (I think for the sun??), and sparklers before bed. There was no discussing it. I hit up the fireworks stand the day before, made the chamomile cupcake recipe up and called it yellow, and thankfully my mom saved the day by dropping off a watermelon as a summer treat. All was good, and the solstice was a success.

I wish for each of you a summer filled with the magic only this season can bring. Live like a child, free and relaxed.

For those celebrating in the southern hemisphere, I wish a warm beginning to winter.