Say “Hello” To My Little Friends…

melons

Summer melons from my local farmers market.  Want to make me smile?  This should do it.

We’ve been enjoying some summer excursions–which have been a total blast–that have caused us to miss our weekly fave farmers market–which is a total drag.  But this week we were in town!

From time to time I post my treasured farmers market produce for your viewing enjoyment.  This photo features the famous hand of my farmers market sidekick, Josie.  She wanted me to say that.

I am not one of those healthy-foody-type gurus who make people feel guilty by saying things like “You should really be buying your produce from a local farmers market.”

There are high points in every growing season, though.  Right now is one of those moments.  Summer fruits and vegetables are at a real peak in So-Cal.   Besides these gorgeous melons, stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc…), tomatoes and green beans are also in a real state of cha-cha.

If you haven’t been to a farmers market in a while, my advice for well rounded summer bucket list is to hit one in the next three to four weeks.  In other words: You should really by buying your produce from a local farmers market!  Maybe not every week, all your produce, all the time, as a life style.  If that ain’t your gig; fine.  I’m not judging.

However, if you don’t get your hands on one of these farmers market melons soon, I’m here to tell ya: you will be missing out on a real treat.

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Packin’ It Up!

picnic lunch

Nothing says “summer” to me more than picnic lunches.

There are plenty of things I dislike about living in Los Angeles County.  Housing is ridiculously expensive.  Traffic can be a bear.  Some parts of town aren’t so nice…

There are plenty of things I absolutely love about living in Los Angeles County.  The weather is ridiculously gorgeous.  The crowds are made up of people from all over the world.  Some parts of town are way cool.

If I focused on the dislikes, I’d be frustrated.  Due to big-city-modern-day-life-issues my children will never grow up like I did; roaming the neighborhood freely on bikes without mom knowing their exact whereabouts at all times.   This ain’t southern Minnesota (and it ain’t the 70’s either!)

So I focus on the cool stuff.  My kids have soooooo many experiences at their fingertips that I never even dreamed about when I was a child.  There are free summer concerts (often with big-name recording artists!) and multicultural fairs.  There are free/cheap museums galore.  There parks everywhere and (my personal fave) there are miles and miles of beaches.

When we head out for our various summer excursions–my regular reminders about the positives of raising a family ’round here–I do like to pack some tasty and healthy food for my crew.  We partake in food events, of course, but often I bring along the staples and we splurge on a treat here and there.  This meal planning not only serves the purpose of keeping us healthy, it is the more economical approach to travel.  I know my grandmother is smiling down on me when I say that. 🙂

A typical Calva-Despard lunch-on-the-go looks like what I have pictured above.  Sandwiches containing nitrate free meats are prepared on whole grain bread.  Summer pea pods and fresh carrots are ready for mouth popping fun.  Fresh watermelon awaits our finger tips.  Roasted peanuts are fun and packed with protein.  Kalamata olives are a salty treat, and for our sweet desires I baked homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars.  These are not “healthy” per se, but as I prepared them myself I control the ingredients and don’t worry about multisyllabic hydrogenated goop.  (They are also sliced into small squares as a little sugar is nice, but we don’t want to go overboard now do we.)

You will also notice a 3/4 bag of Trader Joe’s baked cheese curl things.  Again; not a “healthy” choice, but better than most.  A small portion for everyone brings a smile to faces without too many nasty calories to other places. (plus, I don’t like them so I’m not tempted.  Ha!)

One thing not pictured is our beverage.  Usually water, although I have been known to grab some small cans of apple juice or small carbonated juicey-drinky things.  I’m not big on the waste producing juice box scene, but I will admit that an occasional little something special to drink is appreciated even by me.

Ahhh… summer time!

 

Watching Tomatoes Grow…

ripe tomatoes

A few weeks back I shared a photo of our tiny green tomatoes just beginning to make their appearance on the vine.  What a difference a few weeks of sunshine makes.  In case the former image of my tomato plants isn’t burned into your memory, here are our little beauties from last month:

tomatoes

What were once hard, pale little buds of life, are now sweet, bright bursting little treats that we walk by, pick off and pop in.  There is nothing–OK, seriously, nothing–quite like a perfectly ripe home-grown tomato, still warm from the sunshine in my smiling mouth.  Ahhh…

Despite my type-A efforts to kick off summer with a BANG, due to some factors beyond my control we’ve been keeping a steadily sultry (and admittedly unproductive) pace these past two weeks.  It took me a while to recognize that the universe was telling me to chill the heck out; a request to which I have now surrendered my will.  I guess this is what my family and I need right now, and I as I am hardly one to argue with the universe, we shall go with it.

As this school year came to an end, we–OK… I was more tired than I thought.  Rather than start on my grandiose first draft of the book I’m dying to write, rather than rearrange the wall of photos I’ve been meaning to tackle, rather than redoing some of the details of my recipe pages on this blog, I have, uh, taken two naps this week while my kids watched TV. 🙂 I have also walked every morning at 6:15 for the past 10 days straight with two girlfriends.

I have touched up my roots.

I have pet my dog.

I have savored a perfect nectarine.  Alone.  While the house is still quiet.

I have added a touch of vanilla to my cup of coffee in the morning while I take a moment to breathe.

I have watched my tomatoes grow.

 

My Friend, Bruschetta

bruschetta

OK, so I’m just gonna come out and say it: Bruschetta is the best salad in the world.  Yup.  WORLD.

Don’t get me wrong, I need variety in my diet and absolutely adore other salads (cole slaw, for example) but, honestly, if I had to eat one salad for the rest of my life, (a strange  scenario, but just go with it) I would–hands down–choose bruschetta.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  6 little ingredients that come together in the easiest way to create a sensory experience that appeals to the eyes, nose and mouth.  I can seriously smell the basil and garlic in that photo above.  And the ripeness of the tomatoes coupled with the malty vibrancy of the balsamic vinegar… oh my…

On a hot summer’s night when the thought of turning on the oven or standing over the grill makes me wilt, sometimes I make just this for dinner.  With fresh fruit for dessert and (who are we kidding?) a nice glass of wine… well, that’s kind of a complete meal, right?  At our house: yes.

Michelle’s Bruschetta (pronounced “Broo-skeh-tah”)

Ingredients (quantities are approximate–I eyeball it every time): 5-6 good sized ripe tomatoes, handful of fresh basil, 1 large clove garlic, 1 rounded tsp. salt, 3 tbsp. decent balsamic vinegar (I like Costco’s Kirkland brand, actually), 3 tbsp. olive oil.

Directions: dice tomatoes, chop basil (stems can go in too as long as they’re not too “stalky,”) press garlic and throw everything together in a bowl.  Mix and let sit for a few hours if possible.  That’s it, baby!

Serve on sliced pieces of french baguette.  If you’re feeling super fancy, you can broil the pieces of bread with a drizzle of olive oil for a couple of minutes each side so they get toasty and won’t get soggy with the bruschetta on top.  If you’re not fancy today (and it’s OK, I won’t judge you); slice the bread and there you go.

Tips: Tomatoes need to be ripe and pretty much any kind will do.  Basil can be droopy or even at that “just before it goes off” stage and still work just fine.  Even if you’re a garlic lover like me, use only one clove per 6 tomatoes as I suggest above.  The vinegar and tomato juice will amplify the garlic as it sits.

I make this salad a lot, take it to various summer potluck gatherings and it has never-ever-ever failed to impress.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

Pre-Summer Quinoa Salad!!

Lisa's salad

There are three things you should know about this salad.  First of all, I’ve never actually made it myself.  It’s not my fault though!  Lisa keeps making and making it and bringing it over…  When or why would I go to the trouble?

The second thing you should know is that this recipe comes from another blogger, Once Upon a Chef that Lisa says “is a lot like me.” (Sounds like a cool lady, huh?)

The third thing you should know is that not only do I love this salad soooo much, I love tons of salads like this.  This, friends, is my kinda bowl of yum to have in the fridge.  It’s a pretty complete meal, it’s de-lish, you can prep large quantities at a time and then grab a spoon for days… I’m smiling already.

So I’m telling you all this to tantalize your taste buds.  There will be more salady-posts coming your way as summer (SUMMER!!!) approaches.  Aren’t you excited now?  Boy-oh-boy-oh-boy!

Quinoa Corn/Tomato/Lime Salad (you can read the recipe here, on my recipe page or you can check out the blog from whence it came–nothin’ like options!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 1 cup pre-washed quinoa (if not washed, follow package instructions for rinsing)
  • 1-2/3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, from 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh cut cooked corn, from 2 cobs
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from 1 large lime
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add quinoa to onions and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil. Cover pan tightly with lid, turn heat down to low and simmer for 17-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Transfer cooked quinoa to mixing bowl and chill in refrigerator.
  3. When quinoa is cool, add remaining tablespoon olive oil, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno, cilantro, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Right before serving, scatter avocado chunks over top.

Tip: So far, every time Lisa has made this we get so distracted with the kids (gossip, whatever) she has forgotten to put the avocado in–but it still tasted heavenly.

Tip #2 (unrelated to quinoa salad, but still good to know…): If you’d like to check me out all week on Hometown Pasadena, well, go right ahead.  My featured March recipe is fajitas !!!