June 2011

Summer Cooking Shortcuts

June 30, 2011

by Margaret Cabaniss

I have to say, I’m loving all the summer food posts this week. (I am definitely planning a ceviche and basil lemonade picnic in the near future.) This has got to be the best time of year for eating — when fresh produce is exploding everywhere and we have hours of sunlight in which to enjoy it…

Of course, all this outdoor frolicking poses some challenges for me: When it doesn’t get dark until close to 9, I tend to forget about dinner until somewhere around 8:30 — by which point it’s a little too late to start planning a proper meal. I may have a crisper drawer full of fresh salad greens, but all my meat is still frozen… and if it is remotely hot outside, turning on the stove is the very last thing I want to do anyway. But I can’t just chuck it all and eat sandwiches every night.

And so, knowing my own slacker cooking habits, I’m trying to give myself a jump on last-minute summer weeknight meals by cooking up some meat in advance to use in a few different dishes throughout the week.

Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, I know — but I recently learned a cooking technique for chicken breasts that slashes hands-on time and, if anything, actually increases flavor, giving me juicy, tender chicken that I can use throughout the week, whenever the yen for dinner strikes. It’s a little crazy, but hear me out on this one…

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This post was originally supposed to be about creating a fabulously simple and wonderfully efficient kitchen, but as luck would have it, my camera ran off with pictures of said kitchen. So, for the sake of sanity and Slow living, I’m offering the next best thing: a fabulously simple and wonderfully delicious summer recipe.

Easy to make, pleasing to the masses, and beautiful to look at, ceviche is a meal that sounds and looks a lot more complicated than it is. Traditionally, it’s simply citrus-cooked seafood, but the Ecuadorian-style ceviche that I like to make teeters somewhere between a gazpacho and a salad. Once you learn the basic recipe, you can experiment with different types of fish, or even skip the fish entirely if you prefer.

My handsome husband — a prime suspect in the kidnapping of the aforementioned missing camera — grew up in Ecuador, and this dish makes an appearance in some form or another at most family gatherings. I will admit that the first time I spotted it on my now-mother-in-law’s table, I nearly broke into a cold sweat. At the time, I was neither a seafood lover nor an adventurous eater, nor was I an especially good faker. But friends, there was just no way that I was going to offend the mother of the boy I loved. So, taste and bear it I did…

And, much to my surprise (and relief), I fell in love! I’m now happy to report that ceviche is something I make almost once a week during the warmer months. Besides being hearty and healthy and easy to adapt to the size of your hungry crowd, it’s a meal that I’ve found pleasing to the palates of kids and slow mamas (and papas) alike.

So, without further ado, Ecuadorian Style Summer Ceviche:

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Lemonade…with a Twist

June 28, 2011

by Ann Waterman

When I think of basil, it’s usually in the context of savory dishes — caprese salad, pesto, spaghetti sauce — but did you know that basil is part of the mint family and can be used in place of mint in a slew of things, opening up a whole new world of flavors? Mint and lemon are a classic flavor pairing, but replace mint with basil, add some sugar and water, and you’ve got yourself some basil lemonade! Trust me, this stuff is good. The basil lends a pleasant herbaceous undertone that gives a unique twist to this summertime favorite. Let me show you how to make it.

First, you’ll need to make a basil lemon syrup (adapted from Gourmet, July 2007 via Epicurious.com)  — the base upon which the lemonade is made (and another fun drink that I’ll tell you about in a bit).  It’s basically a simple syrup infused with basil. You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • zest from 2 lemons

Put all ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat mixture while stirring until all the sugar has dissolved (you shouldn’t feel any sugar at the bottom of the pan with the spoon). Remove the syrup from heat, cover, and let it sit for one hour.

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beach picnic

With a long holiday weekend coming up, I thought it was a good time to talk about summer time food…

It’s that time of year when people spend as many days outside as they can, preferably near bodies of water… pools, oceans, lakes. Whether it’s prepping for meals on the go, or whipping something up when you return home with beach bags and towels, quick and tasty meals — that are also healthy and kid-friendly  – aren’t always easy to think up on the fly.

Obviously, if you’re planning meals for just a couple of adults, it’s a whole different ballgame than trying to get in or out the door with small children. No matter what the case, my rule of thumb is to keep it simple and seasonal. Hot weather dictates light, fresh foods during the day, and lots of refreshing drinks.

For meals-on-the go, you need to think about ease of transport, cleanup, and storage. Salmonella is not something you want to add to an otherwise lovely summer day. Make sure you’ve got a good cooler or cooler bag and proper storage containers.

Now on to some ideas…

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Heading Home

June 24, 2011

beach

This is where I’ll be next week, if all goes as planned and my plane lands safely in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Monday morning.

Did I mention I’m a fearful flyer? Well, I am. I don’t exactly enjoy drinking double vodkas at 8 a.m., but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll stare down those small bottles of Smirnoff and feel brave enough to refrain. Every now and then it happens. But throw in a little bad weather, turbulence, or any suspicious mechanical noise, and hellllooo liquid courage. I could tell you that in my other hand is a rosary, but that might perpetuate an unfortunate stereotype.

Anyway, back to my trip… I’ll be attending my little sister’s high school graduation events. I hope to get there in time to catch her in a pretty dress, marching into her prom. Graduation is Wednesday, and then we’re throwing a beach party on Friday when more family will be at our family cottage for the long holiday weekend.

My sister Clara will be home from California with her adorable girls, and I’ll meet my brand-spanking-new nephew, Jonah, for the first time. I’ll get to see many of my siblings, most of whom I’m lucky to gaze upon once a year. I’m also hoping to do a lot of nothing and eat too many carbs.

On the down side, I’m leaving B behind, who will be slaving away in Baltimore. Which stinks. We’re rather joined at the hip, and I’m always anxious when we separate. Errands around town I can handle; longer trips, not so much. I may need the double vodka before I even get to the airport.

It will be my yearly week off-the-grid. It’s the only way I feel truly refreshed, especially since I work on the computer so much. We have electricity and running water at our cottage, thank heavens, but no internet or TV…  just ocean and woods and little kids running around and way too many baked goods. I may cheat a bit when I visit my sister’s house, where there’s wifi — I hate coming home to a gazillion unread emails, and I’ll be tempted to check in and see what’s happening here.

I’ll resume my regular blogging schedule after the holiday weekend. While I’m gone, my lovely contributors will be here as usual. Next week we’ll run a fun summer holiday food series, so I hope you enjoy it. And while I defy every Slow principle this weekend as I pack, prepare, and run around, here’s a few links I wanted to share with you…

  • Here‘s how one town got drivers to slow down.
  • A simple, inexpensive solution to infant mortality and disease.
  • If B liked the flavor of licorice, I would definitely make this salad.
  • I bet this is full of gorgeous photographs — and I love the concept.

Happy weekend!

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by Margaret Cabaniss

Interwebs, my sister is getting married! (No, not the canning one. Not the cake-decorating one, either. Yes, I have a bunch of sisters.) Our family is thrilled, of course, and we’re all neck-deep in the planning: As the maid of honor, I’m in charge of her bridal shower this weekend, and one of the details I’m most excited about is the gift I’m making for the guests.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of knickknacks — though that’s often what you’re sent home with at parties like this. I like gifts you can eat, or use right away; that way there’s no pressure to have that tiny crystal picture frame sitting around forever, collecting dust…

So that made me think about a homemade bath scrub. Scrubs are easy enough to make: They’re essentially just varying combinations of salt or sugar, a carrier oil, and scents — all things you most likely have at home already or can easily get. And they’re one of those things I don’t often think to buy for myself, though I love using them — which is why I thought they might be perfect for little gifts.

Here’s how I made mine…

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And the winner is…

June 22, 2011

Paper straws

The winner of the paper straws is…. Sara M!

Congrats, Sara M. Please contact me by Friday morning to claim your prize.

It was fun to see the books some of you have at the top of your summer reading lists. I’m actually at a bit of a loss about what I want to read this summer, so I’ll have to check out a few of your picks.

I had to smile when I read that Sara M is planning to read Anne of Green Gables to her children. That book is a classic for me — I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, even as an adult. In fact, I’ve read the entire Anne series, right up through Rilla of Ingleside, a book about her oldest daughter. A bit of a tear-jerker in places, but a satisfying conclusion to the books that take you through Anne’s life.

Most people think of the Anne series as just three books, but Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote eight books about Anne Shirley, including Anne of Windy PoplarsAnne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, and Rainbow Valley. And if that isn’t enough Anne for you, throw in Chronicles of Avonlea, Further Chronicles of Avonlea, and The Blythes Are Quoted – where you can read about the characters and events around the protagonist.

An interesting fact about the real Green Gables in Prince Edward Island: It is — or was — a huge draw for Japanese tourists. They love Anne. I’ve never found out how they discovered the books or what the appeal is for them about a stubborn redhead from a remote Canadian island.

And while they’re not Japanese, even Will and Kate will be stopping by in a week’s time on their Canadian tour.

(Photo above found here.)

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What Every New Mom Needs

June 21, 2011

by Ann Waterman

Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins and Spring Vegetable Pot Pie from The Good Neighbor Cookbook

I’m always humbled by the outpouring of generosity from friends and family when I have a baby. People are good to us in so many ways, whether it’s thoughtful gifts, offering to help hold down the fort while we’re at the hospital, or — something I’m really thankful for — delivering meals to us after we return home.

I’ll never forget the first meal we received: a Tupperware container full of homemade chicken noodle soup (with asparagus as the special ingredient — a favorite of mine), as well as an additional container to freeze for later use. It was winter and I was exhausted from lack of sleep, nursing woes, and a difficult physical and emotional recovery from my C-section. That soup warmed me all over and made me feel a whole lot better. I was so grateful for this kind act that I wanted to do the same for other new moms.

One of the challenges of making a meal for a new mother is finding recipes that are simple to make, that transport well, and are something other than lasagna (not to knock it, but it seems to be everyone’s go-to portable dish). So I was really pleased when I received The Good Neighbor Cookbook by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg — a cookbook completely devoted to making meals for every possible neighborly need: a new mom, bereavement, block party, or book club meeting. This cookbook delivers with a wonderful variety of unique, easy recipes that are nourishing and tasty — both important for a mom who is nourishing new life herself and recovering from the physical tolls of pregnancy and labor.

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A Wedding

June 21, 2011

Shane and Angie

B and I spent most of our weekend at the wedding events of a young couple we met through our church two years ago. You can’t get much sweeter than Angie and Shane, and their tenderness for each other is obvious — they’re clearly best friends. Their wedding was simple, peaceful, lovely — just like them. They asked us to be readers — B read an excerpt from Tobit and I read the beautiful passage about love from 1 Corinthians 13. They married at Angie’s childhood parish, and their friends and family were the nicest people.

First Dance

Really, does it get much sweeter?

B snuck a picture of me wishing the couple many happy years together…

Me and the happy couple

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Being a Slow Mama

June 20, 2011

Mama and baby

Image of mama and baby taking a break can be found here.

I use the term Slow Mama on this site rather loosely. You certainly don’t need to be a mom to embrace Slow principles. But most adult women are moms — and that’s true of many readers here.

I may not have kids yet, but I do understand the busyness of motherhood. Raising children has always been a daunting task, but add to it the pace and demands of modern life and it can be overwhelming.

A mom blogger I know through the Ethiopian adoption world asked if I’d do a guest post for her readers about how busy moms can slow down. The funny (and not so funny) thing is, I almost said no because I’ve been so busy! But it’s a topic that is right up my ally, and I happen to like and admire Jamey — so I made the time for it.

So today, I’m going to send you over to Jamey’s blog to read my post. Feel free to come on back and leave a comment here. A taste:

I realize that telling a mom to slow down is like telling her to stop breathing. I wish I had a secret formula for keeping life sane and wonderful 24-7, but I don’t. There’s no magic bullet. “Slow” living isn’t about moving like a turtle all the time, but doing everything at the right speed as much as possible, and making choices that bring a little more sanity and enjoyment to your day.

In a mother’s world, success often means being able to adapt, live with interruptions, and keep it together when you (once again) have to toss your plans out the window because a kid is sick, or your husband’s late from work, or you just burned the chicken. Keeping the realities of motherhood in mind, here are eight ways to bring a little Slowness into your busy life…

Click here to read the full post.

P.S. I hope all my Slow Papa readers had a great Father’s Day yesterday!

P.P.S. Be sure to enter Friday’s giveaway if you haven’t already — the deadline is Wednesday morning.

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