Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Here, Summer There

So it's a good thing I don't blog for a living, or I'd be super poor. Though, if I was blogging for a living, it would be (at least part of) my life's work and I'd be keeping up with it. Boy, when work and life get crazy, things just go by the wayside and you sometimes forget how much you enjoy something. I clearly haven't written for - I believe - 2 years, but even just reading my last post, I realized how much I enjoy writing, and I really should keep up with this better. I still need a new blog name, as over the past few years since I started this, I have gotten so much more into the "Other Adventures" and due to work, don't have as much time to spend in the "Test Kitchen". I did yesterday, though, and wanted to share some things with you.

This is my favorite time of year. Time to plant things in the garden and pots. Farmers Market time (as *some* of us are not fortunate enough to live where Farmers Markets go year round). Time to bike to work more. Sitting on the patio with a drink and listening to Pirates baseball. All kinds of good stuff.

In the past week, I have scored two large bins of fresh strawberries at the local Farmers Market, and from the grocery store - a few pounds of crisp red grapes and a juicy quarter of a watermelon. I spent some time in the kitchen working with all of these goodies.

I started with the watermelon. A long time ago, I received an email in my inbox from Tasting Table with a recipe for a watermelon salad that involved basil and goat cheese. That was all I remembered, and all I needed to know. Now looking back at the recipe, I think I need to try the actual recipe. I have simply been doing watermelon, basil and goat cheese. Which is really still quite delicious. As I'm cubing this watermelon, there is literally juice dripping down the knife, down my arm, onto the counter, onto the floor. Needless to say, even though it is technically J's week for the cleaning chores, the kitchen got a thorough scrub-down after I was done. I used my giant Pyrex bowl first, because frankly, I can never judge how much I'm going to get out of something. It worked out though - I was able to downsize to my next Pyrex bowl, and in doing so was able to layer some watermelon and basil, so that it is more evenly distributed. The basil came from the giant plant on our patio - courtesy of Trader Joe's ($3.99, and seriously, this thing is huge and keeps growing) - and I chopped up several large leaves to add to the watermelon. Once I layered the watermelon and basil, into the fridge it went - I will add the goat cheese to individual servings as we dole it out for snacks or lunches - and maybe even add a little balsamic vinegar or dressing to it.

While I'm chopping the basil, I started to debate what else can I do with it since we have so much. My thoughts led to some of the infused waters we have had courtesy of Marriott hotels in the lobby when we have traveled. I decided to chop some basil and some of the strawberries for an infused water. I added the chopped strawberries and basil to the carafe first:

Then poured the water from our Brita pitcher over it. This kind of made the berries and basil jump around some and release more flavor. (I also treated myself to a couple of glasses of the same combo - just with plain seltzer water.) Yum!

Lastly - what to do with all these grapes I bought? J loves grapes, and they were on sale, so I couldn't pass them up - especially because they looked so crisp and perfect. Last summer, my mom turned us on to frozen grapes as a summer snack, and since we're looking at some hot days coming up in the forecast, I decided to freeze some. Once again, I used my mom's passed-down wisdom and rinsed the grapes, pulled them off the stems, and put them onto a cookie sheet to freeze. I have used this same method to freeze blueberries and strawberries when we have had a surplus (usually Farmers Market berries), and it works so well. Not only does this help you weed out any bad (aka squishy) pieces, freezing them spread out and bagging later helps prevent them from all freezing/sticking together. After a couple of hours, they were ready, and I bagged them into snack sized bags. (I did the same with some of the Farmers Market strawberries afterwards.)

Not only does this help reduce waste (from food going bad before you can use it all), it makes snacks easy - whether using the berries for smoothies or other recipes, or snacking on the frozen grapes (kids and adults alike!). For the adults, all these frozen treats can also come in handy while enjoying adult beverages - enjoying some white wine? Throw in a few frozen grapes or strawberries! Not only will it help keep it cold, it can add a little extra flavor. Know what goes good with a blueberry vodka & lemonade (an amazing drink, by the way)? Frozen blueberries. You get the picture.

So take advantage of summer fruit sales and the goods at your local Farmers Market, and enjoy in the months ahead!