Cooking

Summertime Local Eats!

I love living in the Pioneer Valley through all four seasons - but spring and summer bring with them a bounty of local produce that are the icing on the cake! I love buying seasonal produce at local farm stands, the Northampton Farmer's Market (plus the Florence Farmer's market and Tuesday Market), the River Valley Coop, even State Street, Cooper's Corner and larger supermarkets carry some local produce this time of year. Of course there's also the option of taking a farm share at one of our local CSAs - there are many to choose from in the Northampton area.

I feel my inner chef start to rear her head once the Hadley Grass (asparagus) hits the local markets in the spring. And rarely does a summer dinner go by that doesn't include grilled local corn, asparagus, or squash, a Caprese salad, grilled fish or meat with bountiful salads, desserts made with berries or peaches, or a bowlful of chilled watermelon to fight the summer humidity! I thought this article from The Kitchn which hit my inbox today, did a great job of making suggestions about what to eat in the summer. I might advise against eating ones' weight in ice cream, but otherwise....

 

50 Things You Need to Eat by the End of Summer
 

Sheela Prakash
Aug 5, 2017

There are many iterations of the summer bucket list. Some include going to the beach, hiking, or watching the fireflies outside on the back porch. All crucial to the season, yes, but so is eating all the delicious things the warm weather brings. It seems there aren't enough hours in the long, sunny days to consume all the fresh produce, burgers, and ice cream cones the summer entails. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try!

Here are the 50 foods we think absolutely must be eaten before the season comes to a close. This is our summer food bucket list.

 

 

(Image credit: Brie Passano)

All the Tomatoes

We forgo those mealy, tasteless tomatoes at the grocery store the entire year in anticipation of the sweet, juicy orbs that hit farmers market stalls mid-summer — and it's completely worth the wait. Once they arrive, it's a seasonal requirement to consume as many as you can, in every shape, size, and color, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Icon: 1-Minute Tomato Sandwich

When tomatoes are this good, they don't need to be fussed with too much. The iconic summer sandwich celebrates their sweetness and requires no more than 60 seconds to assemble, which means you should have time to eat at least a few before the season is over.

Read more: 5 Things to Do with a Pound of Tomatoes

 
 

 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Eat Your Weight in Ice Cream

An ice cream a day might not keep the doctor away, but it will make for one seriously delicious summer. For the sake of the season, up your consumption. That means ice cream in cones, cups, smashed between cookies, and made into cake. Oh, and other icy treats should be enjoyed too, so don't bypass the Popsicles.

Your Challenge: Make the Best Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Definitely hit your local ice cream shop and open the freezer case at the grocery store multiple times, but also try making your own quart this summer. Creamy, rich chocolate is a great place to start.

Related: 25 Creative People Share Their Favorite Pints of Ice Cream

 

 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Eat Everything That's Hot Off the Grill

Our grills are perpetually fired up all summer long, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It keeps the heat out of the kitchen, and everything from meat to fish to vegetables tastes better after being cooked on one. Toss as many things as you can on the grill while the weather allows it.

 

The New Classic: Easy Lemongrass Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken is a summer standby for most households, but this season bring a new recipe to the roster. This smoky, savory chicken is extra aromatic, thanks to the addition of lemongrass, and adds just the right amount of flair to your summer weeknight dinners.

Read more: How To Make Juicy, Flavorful Grilled Chicken Breast

 

 

 

 

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Eat Bucketfuls of the Juiciest, Sweetest Fruit

That is strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, plums, melons, and more. Eat all of it and eat as much of it as you can. Inhale them fresh, with the juices running down your arms, and then transform them into the desserts you crave.

The Crowd-Pleaser: How To Make a Fruit Cobbler by Heart

A juicy, sticky cobbler is a true celebration of the season. All it asks of you is that you pile as much fresh fruit as you can get your hands on and serve it warm with plenty of vanilla ice cream.

Related: 7 Tips That Will Help Your Summer Berries Last Even Longer

 

 

 

(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Eat Plenty of Light and Easy No-Cook Meals

One of the greatest pleasures of summer is just how fuss-free it is. This applies to what you cook in the season too. Instead of meals that require slow-simmering or excessive roasting, summer meals are light and easy. Embrace this before the weather turns chilly and you do want to stay inside all day and cook a stew. Relish meals that don't require any cooking at all, like salads and chilled soups, and yet are just as satisfying as those that have you crank up the oven.

The Seasonal Standby: Farmers Market Salad

This colorful salad is a catch-all for whatever you may discover on your farmers market strolls this summer. That means it's one you can, and should, turn to over and over again throughout the season.

Read more: How I Turn a Trip to the Farmers Market into Dinner

Great Items to Spruce up Your Kitchen and Home!

Recently we've been drooling over recipes and home decor ideas from the Food52.com website. If you are a homeowner who enjoys unique decor and kitchen items, or someone who loves to cook, it's a great website to peruse! 

As we have written in previous posts, it's not always necessary to completely overhaul or renovate a home in need of some cosmetic updates. You can do a lot with paint, wallpaper and decor to give your home, or rooms within your home, an updated and fresh appearance. This recent post shows four gorgeous new patterns of "easy on, easy off" adhesive wallpaper. What a great way to transform a room with one accent wall and no long term commitment!

Easy On Easy Off Wallpaper from Food52.com

Photo by James Ransom "Hojos Cubanos" pictured above

 

A statement item, such the Mediterranean Vinyl Kitchen Mat can help brighten up a monochromatic space. It looks like Mediterranean tile, and provides cushioning in high traffic areas such as the kitchen where tend to spend a lot of time on your feet. A small investment to help freshen a well-used area in your home. 

Looks as if we are going to be indoors for longer than we hoped this winter, given the recent No'r-Easter "Stella" who just dumped a bunch of snow on Northampton and the Northeast. These wire plant stands are perfect for bringing your indoor/outdoor plants in for the winter - while creating a lovely indoor garden scene, vs. a cluttered-looking corner of the house.

And for the DIY person in your life, here is a great selection of gifts from the Food52 online store. One example is:

Pictured above is the DIY deluxe Hot Sauce kit

 

 Just some helpful hints from your friendly, neighborhood real estate agency, Maple and Main Realty in Florence MA : )

Super Bowl Sunday Recipes for Patriots Fans - and Other People

Super Bowl Sunday is nearly upon us, and, once again, The New England Patriots are in the game! We moved to Northampton from New York just over 10 years ago. To the extent that I care about football, I'm still loyal to the Giants, but I get that my fellow Western MA compatriots are super excited about the upcoming event.

I was happy to find this post from food52.com - with innovative recipes for cheese dips to hold my interest during the game, since I won't likely be paying attention otherwise. If you are someone who enjoys cooking and entertaining, as well as football - perhaps you'll find a new recipe below to help spice up your Super Bowl Sunday. Enjoy!

 

If What's on TV Bores You, At Least You'll Have These Cheese Dips

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Yes, you could serve squeaky, toothpick-able cheese cubes at your football or Oscars party. And no one would object.But you could also take that same cheese and make a more metamorphic change: Add spices, herbs, and vegetables, then blend or melt or beer-spike into a dip that's creamy, scoopable, and at home on a variety of "dippers," from tortilla chips to carrot sticks. Suddenly, you've taken that singular, lonely cheese and transformed it into an eligible snack from which hundreds of thousands (or at least a few) spin-off combinations are possible:

 
  • Saltine plus pimento cheese? Yes please.
  • Carrot stick heavy with pimento cheese? Don't mind if I do.
  • Tortilla chip with pimento cheese? Crazier things have been done before.
  • For a full run-down of the best dippers to pair with which cheese dips (like, what one does a strawberry go with?!), see our not very comprehensive nor scientific guide below.
 

Choose your cheese, cheesy, or cheesiest dip below, then prepare or purchase any accompaniments as you see fit:

What's your favorite way to consume cheese in a party setting? "In large quantities" is a totally acceptable answer. Drop others in the comments below!

ChiliFest at Mike's Maze this weekend!

NOT TO BE MISSED! The ChiliFest at Mike's Maze in Sunderland, MA is happening this weekend! What a great way to ring in the fall. Great food and great music, all in the idyllic New England setting of Mike's Maze in Sunderland. We Northampton-area locals look forward each year to the unveiling of the latest maze. This year, in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the National Parks Service, the maze is called "See America". Check out the link here for the aerial view of the maze.

While you are out and about, check out our weekend open houses.

Let's hope this beautiful weather holds throughout the weekend. Check out the article in the Daily Advocate here:

Hot Damn! Sunderland’s ChiliFest is Coming

By Hunter Styles

Kitchen Garden Farm hosts its annual giant farmer party at Mike’s Maze in the center of Sunderland, with bands, brews and spicy food all weekend long.

Hot Diggity!!!!

Could it be that the lingering heat wave of the past week was due to the potency of the peppers newly ripening at Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland? Probably not, but we hear these little devils are hotter than ever — and just in time for ChiliFest. Kitchen Garden hosts its annual giant farmer party Sept. 17-18 at Mike’s Maze in the center of Sunderland, with bands, brews and spicy food all weekend long.

Musical acts playing the solar-powered pavilion include Bella’s Bartok, The Derangers, Atlas Lab, Lonesome Brothers, Wishboe Zoe, Amber Wolfe, Tang Sauce, and Eli Catlin, whose tunes you can enjoy while munching on Mission Cantina tacos, mango-jalapeno popsicles from Crooked Stick Pops, arepas from Wheelhouse Farm Truck, dumplings from Kailash Kitchen, sriracha swirl ice cream from Bart’s, and spicy grilled Mexican street corn. Wash it all down with local beer from Abandoned Building Brewery, BLDG 8, and Exhibit A. 

That’s just the tip of the spiceberg. The Cook-Off features some of the best restaurant chefs in the Valley. The Hot Sauce Competition, held Sunday, is open to all who pre-register. Then, of course, there are the peppers from around the world, all fabulously monikered: ghost peppers, Hungarian Paprika, Trinidad Scorpions, and Carolina Reapers. Check out the screen printing, face painting, kids market, and the chef demo tent. Learn how to cook, pickle, and ferment. There’s even a “kimchi mob,” whatever that is. It’s a perfect chance to carry out these final days of summer in a blaze of glory. 

ChiliFest: Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. $10 adults; $5 kids; weekend pass $15 adults and $8 kids. Mike’s Maze, 23 South Main St., Sunderland. (413) 387-5163, kitchengardenfarm.com. 

— Hunter Styles, 

hstyles@valleyadvocate.com

Spend time in your Kitchen!

My nesting instincts have started kicking in again, like clockwork, this month. I can count on this happening every year around January. As the real estate season in the Northampton area winds down (generally this happens before Thanksgiving, and picks up again in late winter/early spring), I find myself getting around to household projects I've been meaning to accomplish. Whether it be learning something new to cook (a couple of weeks ago, I tried my hand at baguettes for the first time!), or picking up the knitting I started last year (and put aside once the snow melted) - finally having that piece of artwork framed (or trying my hand at DIY-ing it), and/or organizing the basement storage area.... This time of year is perfect for back burner projects and goals. 

Since I am someone who loves to cook, and cherishes my time puttering around the kitchen, preparing meals while listening to music and enjoying a glass of wine - the following article I found on the Apartment Therapy blog piqued my interest... This comes on the heels of a recent mini-shopping spree my husband and I just went on to a local kitchen store. We purchased two "perfect" spatulas, baguette baking pans (see aformentioned note of my first attempt at homemade baguettes), a bench scraper (came in quite handy for baguettes), and just-the-right-sized saucepan to help make our time in the kitchen more enjoyable. It's amazing how helpful it is to have the proper tools!  

 

5 Things You Should Buy for Your Kitchen in February
WINTER RESET

 

by Cambria Bold

Megan and Leif's Scandinavian-Inspired Oakland Charmer


If the months of the year are guests at a dinner party, January is the friend who can't stop talking about how great she feels now that she doesn't do [insert most enjoyable things here] anymore. It's admirable, but also kind of annoying. Of course you'd like to be your best self (her words, not yours), but do you have to give up so much in the process? Can't the whole thing be a little more enjoyable?

Thankfully your down-to-earth buddy February is around to keep things real. When January makes you feel like a failure, February steps in to say it's okay to take smaller steps towards your personal betterment, and it's also okay to buy a little something to help you along the way. (He's such a good guy to shop with!) With that in mind, here are five small things to buy for your kitchen next month to keep you moving positively and pleasantly through the new year.

 

1. Something to help you clean better.
Cleaning the kitchen is a daily necessity when you're a cook. You might not love it, but you know how much better you feel after it's done (especially if you do it before you go to bed).

Did you resolve in January to clean your kitchen every day? Then you need proper cleaning tools and pleasant scents. Are your scrub brushes old and crusty? Get a new, better one. Tired of running out of dish cloths all the time? Stock up. Looking for the best-smelling dish soap? This comes pretty close. Anything that makes cleaning more enjoyable is a worthwhile purchase and a win in our book.


2. Something to help you cook better.
Many of us change our eating or cooking habits in January — we go vegan, or Paleo, or gluten-free; we cut out alcohol and add in a daily smoothie. Sometimes those habits stick, but other times they fall away. If it's the latter, you may find you need some new inspiration come February to reorient you and get you back cooking how you want to cook.

This is the time to buy something that'll help make that happen. Restock your spices. Get a nice bottle of olive oil. Pick up a new kitchen tool or upgrade a small appliance, if you can. Think about what would improve your kitchen routines or enhance your cooking, and start there. It doesn't have to be expensive; even something as small as a the best peeler ever can do the trick.

3. Something to help you explore a new cooking interest or master a cooking skill.
Maybe your January resolution had nothing to do with restriction of any kind (good for you!), and instead you chose to explore a new cooking interest. Or maybe you're still digging yourself out from last week's blizzard (along with any good will you had, because apparently that got snowed in when you did), and desperately need a pick-me-up to get you out of the winter doldrums. If any of those are the case, it's time to treat yourself.

Buy a a sourdough starter and see where it takes you. Get a ceramic coffee cone so you can finally try pourover coffee. Buy a wok so you can master stir-frying at home. Spend the day shopping for ingredients so you can cook from Pok Pok, or any special cookbook you've been dying to get into. The world's your oyster!


4. Something to help you maintain a new habit.
It's easy to rag on January for setting the standards too high and setting you up for disappointment when you fail to meet them, but in truth, you appreciate that she challenges you to try new things. Hopefully it's not all over in February, and you've found a healthy new habit you want to keep going.

Are you finally planning out your meals and prepping ingredients for the week on Sunday, just like you've always wanted? Are you actually doing all your shopping for the week on Friday afternoon? Is your pantry still neat and organized, and it's been almost a month? Are you drinking plenty of water every day? Have you eaten dinner at the table every night (and not once on the sofa) this month?

If you're really into this new habit, don't let the momentum go! How can you keep it up? Make sure you have enough containers for your lunch prep. Upgrade your water bottle. Get your knives professionally sharpened. Get a label-maker for your pantry, and take that organization to the next level. Buy flowers for yourself as a little reward every week you keep it up!


5. Something to make you excited about winter cooking.
We are about to hit February, which can be a bleak month, leftover resolutions notwithstanding. But it is also a cozy month — a month where it's okay to cook in flannel PJs and make big pots of soup and drink tea all day long. It's good to embrace the season, and a little purchase next month can help with that.

Buy some high-quality chocolate for hot cocoa, or a thick, heavy mug you can wrap your hands around. Get a nice bottle of red wine to have with dinner (and sip on while you're cooking). Buy another bottle so you can make this rich, heavenly lamb ragu. Get that loaf pan you've been eying so you can bake bread. You're going to make it through, and you're going to be great.

How do you treat yourself in February? Are there any little things you like to buy for yourself this time of year to keep your spirits up or resolutions intact?

(Image credits: Celeste Noche)