Vacation Bible School is NO Vacation – Black Bean Tortilla Pie

I am literally limping to the finish line, folks.  Current score: Vacation Bible School, 3 – Me, 0! I basically did it for the Little Little One.  You see, in the land of VBS, if you want your pre-schooler to attend, then you are required to volunteer.  And what self respecting 4 year old is going to let her sisters traipse off to a week of fun without putting up a protest and wanting to attend also.  So I caved and filled out the volunteer form.

With just a click of the mouse, off it went and I was committed.  The first reply I got had me assigned to the kitchen.  “Cool,” I thought,  “I’ll be bagging pretzels and washing grapes.  Not a bad gig.”  Well, that apple cart was soon upset when I got another e-mail telling me that they would be putting me in the craft tent after all.  The craft tent!

After just three days in the craft tent, let me tell you – – – it’s grueling work!  Day 1 = Modge Podge.  Day 2= beaded crosses  Day 3= beaded crosses.  And guess what I have to look forward to tomorrow . . . more beaded crosses.  See days 2 – 5 work on a rotational schedule.  The kids move to a different station each day, but it’s like I’m stuck in the beaded cross version of Groundhog Day. I know it sounds silly, but directing the beading of 45 crosses a morning with no chance to sit down from 8:30 – 12:30 is kicking my butt.  On day 2 I was suggesting different patterns for the beading of the crosses and marveling at each child’s unique talent and abilities expressed through their positioning of the beads.  Tomorrow, I think if any child even starts to diddle around with an idiotic pattern which takes 28 times longer than just slappin’ those beads on that cross, that I just take may have to personally remove the kid from the craft tent.

As I figure it, I either have a special place in heaven for having led the beading of so many crosses, or . . .  this little blog post (really a result of extreme fatigue and  nothing more), has just swiped that special place right out of my reach.  So as my VBS enthusiasm has declined  as the week has progressed, so too has the family fare at the dinner table.  We kicked off Monday with a great little Almond, Lemon & Basil Crusted Salmon.  Yesterday we had a favorite go-to of Black Bean Tortilla Pie.  Tonight, I chucked some Trader Joe’s frozen mini tacos in the oven and then tossed paper plates around the table frisbee style.  If you were lucky enough to catch a plate then you could serve yourself a taco.  So I figure before we sink any further, I had better get my post for the week up.  Who knows, if I wait any longer, you might get the “recipe” for how to microwave a hotdog!

So this Black Bean Tortilla Pie is a great, easy meal.  The added bonus is that you probably have everything you need to make it  in your pantry and fridge right now.

I started things off by sautéeing up a little onion and jalapeno pepper along with some garlic and cumin.


I rinsed and drained a couple cans of black beans, and then added those, along with a 12 oz. bottle of beer,  to the skillet with the onion mixture.


I brought that mixture to a boil and then reduced the heat and let simmer until almost all of the liquid had evaporated.  I stirred in a package of frozen corn and some scallions.  Then I removed the  skillet from the heat and seasoned  with some salt and pepper.

In a spring form pan, I fit 1 – 2 whole wheat tortillas into the bottom.  You may have to trim the 2nd tortilla down so that you have one even layer of tortilla covering the pan bottom.  On top of that, I spooned a quarter of the bean mixture and then some cheddar cheese.   I repeated  this same layering another three times, and finished things off with a double dose of cheddar.


I baked the pie in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  I unmolded the pie from the springform pan and sprinklde with more scallions for garnish. I like to serve with fresh salsa, sour cream, tortilla chips and rice.


Here is the complete recipe for Black Bean Tortilla Pie.

Stuck on Summer Simple – Watermelon, Tomato, Basil & Feta Salad

I’m simply stuck on simple.  No other words for it.

This past weekend I was on a mission for short preparation and refreshing results.  Maybe it’s because my weekend consisted of six (yes, 6) water polo games and a swim meet.  Guess you could say I’m water logged.

Oh, and genius me, decided to join the book club with the gals studying Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7.  Her first chapter is about food.   In her actual “experiment”, she decided on only seven foods to nourish her body (and soul) for an entire month.  Our book club is covering her seven areas of excess (food, clothing, media, spending, possessions, waste, & stress) at the rate of one per week.  I decided that choosing seven foods for a week wouldn’t be that tough for me.  Instead, I decided to GIVE UP seven things for this week.   One of those things was Eating Out.  Now I don’t know about you, but a 6 water polo game 1 swim meet kind of weekend screams CHIIIIIIIIIPOTLE.  But no, my brilliant book club experiment had me planning and preparing meals as I was dashing out the door with towels and tents and lego bins in tow.  My little brood is just lucky they didn’t end up with sunscreen in place of sour cream on this weekend’s consumables.

So amidst all the water sport chaos, I did manage to pull off a very simple salad that I think is worth sharing.  I had half of a small water melon left that I needed to finish off.  I cut it into bite-sized cubes and then tossed with some halved cherry tomatoes.  I dressed that watermelon tomato mixture with a little dressing made out of simple olive oil and red wine vinegar.  I lined a platter with chopped romaine and then mounded the tomato-watermelon mixture on top.  I finished things off with feta cheese, slivered almonds, and fresh chopped basil. So easy.



Hope you all had a relaxing weekend.  Next week on my 7 agenda is clothing.  Fortunately, we’ll be leaving on vacation.  Let’s just say that 7 articles of clothing is going to make the packing very light!

Want to check out some other watermelon salad ideas?

Summer Simplicity – Buffalo Salmon Sliders

So often, less is really more.  Overused, of course, but oh so true.

As we come into our 3rd week of summer vacation, I have had to stop and remind myself of “less”.  We have done two weeks of biology camp, had numerous play and pool dates, have gone to the beach, etc.  These were all enjoyable and enriching things. No doubt.  But when I look closely at my small troop, it’s pretty undeniable that just hanging out around the house (doing less)  can get some pretty big grins, let loose some pretty awesome imaginations, and can lead to amazingly incredible problem solving (result in more).

This premise is most definitely the case in cooking.  I have always made the distinction between cooking and assembling.  But every once in a while I stumble onto a recipe for assembling something that is just a killer taste combination.  That was exactly the deal with these Buffalo Salmon Sliders.  Love, love love buffalo sauce – salmon is our protein of choice – and blue cheese?  Well, there are very few things, in my opinion, that aren’t made better with blue cheese.  So let the assembly begin.

Just took the salmon and cut into small pieces the size of my slider buns.


Poured some buffalo sauce over the salmon.  This jarred brand, Ashanti, is pretty decent – 7 ingredients and the only GMO offender is Xanthan Gum, but hey, it’s summer and I’m relaxing and contemplating simplicity.  If you don’t want to go the jarred route, here’s a great recipe for homemade.


I sliced up some avocado and tore up some lettuce leaves for serving.  And of course, crumbled up some blue cheese.


I tossed the buffalo coated salmon onto the grill, and cooked for about 5 minutes total.    Onto the slider buns went the salmon, the lettuce, avocado, blue cheese and a drizzle more buffalo sauce.  I served these up with some grated carrots, raisins and vinaigrette and some braised brussels sprouts.


So simple.  So good.  So summer!

The Sugar Abyss, Culture & Taste – Moroccan Tagine

This past week, I was looking back over previous posts.  I started asking myself whether I was still “on target” with blogging about REAL food or had I really digressed and started rambling about how much I love to cook and eat.  I did a little self refresher on what I was even calling REAL food.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • foods that are a product of nature rather than industry (no foodlike substances, if you will)
  • mainly fruits and veggies
  • whole grains
  • dairy ( in its pure, unprocessed, unsweetened form – read, no fru-fru yogurts or whacky cheese deals)
  • fish or shellfish (not that poultry and meat can’t be real, but it’s just that I’ve chosen to tend more in the vegetarian direction)

real iconAs a way of checking myself, I browsed through past recipes and decided that I would tag each REAL food recipe with this little icon, if in fact, it fit my REAL parameters.

What I found was that we do a pretty good job keeping things real around the dinner table.  At dessert time, not so much.  And boy, does this girl like her desserts.  If I’m not making a dessert pretty regularly, I’m sure to be keeping my freezer stocked with ice cream.  As I contemplated the overall food scheme in our house, it seemed really obvious that we had met the enemy and the enemy was sugar!  Breakfasts are overall good for us, lunches are usually modified versions of our dinners, and dinners – well, you’ve got a blog’s-eye view into those right here.  But the desserts, the “treats”, and the yum-yums are waaaaaaayyyyyyy out of line with our “real”ity.  So what to do?

I started perusing some other real food blogs (a great link right here, if you’re interested) and checking out their take on sugar.  I admit my inclination was to declare war on the sweet stuff, announce it to the troops here in the house, and then drill out our rules and strategy around the dinner table (for those that don’t know me personally, I’m just that kind of Mom, fortunately or unfortunately – you can make the call). I checked out the Sugar Control Detox Program.  I started looking into healthy alternatives to sugar.  I was on a hunt to make sense of things.  But the more I explored, the more confusing things got.  One site recommended agave as a sugar substitute.  Then another outed the agave and claimed that it was worse than high fructose corn syrup.

Finally, in the midst of all this reeling over the question of sugar, I returned to the center of my overarching food philosophy.  I am as much about the experience of food and the pleasure of eating as the nutritional value of what we consume.  I believe eating is a beautiful pillar of culture.  When I gather my family around our table, I am reminding them of who we are and what our traditions are.  When I set the table with a table cloth (even though the last thing I need is another thing to wash amidst my mountains of laundry) and a proper place setting, and we take our time to eat, I am reminding them of the place food fills in our heritage and home.  Remember – thanks to the Hubs, we are half French around here.  We are half wine sippin’, cheese eatin’, paté spreadin’, chocolate lovin’ beret wearers.  And historically, our French half, with all of their indulgences, don’t struggle with obesity like our American counterpart, don’t have comparable heart disease statistics, don’t sweat their cholesterol levels like us, and on and on goes the list.

So I have decided to not wage my war on sugar – not yet anyway.  Of course I’ll remain vigilant about not <purchasing> products high in sugar content. But I’ll embrace our “Frenchness” and continue allegiance to taste, smell, and texture over calories, fat, and carbs. I’ll keep baking my own desserts, in moderation, and we’ll keep sipping our wine and eating our fruit.  We will change the ice cream habit.  It was getting out of hand anyway. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.  And as we keep trying to keep things real, I’ll share more recipes with you, like this one for Moroccan Tagine.

Here’s the entire starting line up:


As with so many of our real recipes, it’s about chopping, chopping, and more chopping.  So off we went with the red pepper and zucchini.  Followed by the onion, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, and parsley.


I sauteed up the onion and garlic a bit and then added in a cinnamon stick.   I added in all the other veggies except for the mushrooms which I sauteed in a separate pan.  I added some cumin and coriander to the mixture of vegetables and then sauteed a little longer.

In the food processor I made my own tomato puree.  I added that along with the garbanzo beans and a little sugar (no, it wasn’t maple syrup, it wasn’t honey, it wasn’t agave, it was straight up, good old, white sugar) to the mixture.


I added the mushrooms in as well, and then covered it all and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

I made some Israeli couscous to accompany the tagine and served it up.  Pretty simple, relatively quick, and quite flavorful.


Interested in the recipe for Moroccan Tagine?  You can get it here.

You may also want to check out the site Veggie Zest where I first found this wonderful recipe.

Celebrating 20 – Fig & Prosciutto Salad

The Big One turned 20 this past week and we celebrated on Friday.  She invited the boyfriend and the best friend to join in the festivities.  We decided to do dinner at home and, don’t faint , she chose SALMON.  If you don’t know the story behind the salmon, you can get up to speed on my post A Conversion Experience.  She left the cake choice up to me, and I decided to add in a little first course that I had been dying to try (more on that in a bit).

Big One and I decided on a Super Hero theme together, and we also thought it would be fun to do a video scavenger hunt.  Then she was kicked out of the planning process because we all know there’s nothing sweeter in life than a good dose of surprise.

The sisters got to work on costumes for the event.  I decided that we could kill many super hero stones with the purchase of one 5-pack of Justice League boys’ undies. We ended up with a Super Man, a Green Lantern, and a Flash.  The Wee One even got her own Super Man outfit.


One morning over breakfast, we brainstormed the list of items for the video scavenger hunt.  The sisters could barely contain themselves.  Secret keeping from the Big One turned out to be so tough.  Here’s what the final list looked like:

  • Ice cream cone unicorn – order a McDonald’s ice cream cone and then promptly stick it to your forehead
  • Get a policeman to handcuff you
  • Get 3 strangers to Sing & dance to the YMCA with you  in front of Ralph’s
  • Hug 3 strangers in line at the Habit
  • Hang upside down on the monkey bars and sing the National Anthem
  • Go to the fire station, get a fireman, show him STOP, DROP , and ROLL   Bonus: Get him to do it with you! (25)
  • Go through the Wendy’ s Drive Thru in a shopping cart and buy a Frosty
  • Dress up in the bunny costume, go to Ralphs, and buy carrots
  • Try to buy a pack of gum at the gas station and pay with Euros
  • Lie down and pretend to sleep at the entrance of a public area for 3 minutes
  • Ask for food from someone’ s plate at a restaurant
  • Go to the Tae Kwon Do studio and start following the class

Last up  in the party preparations were decorations.  The sisters had fun with super hero drawings, signs, and various other decorative doo-dads.


When the evening of the party finally arrived, dinner was devoured in what seemed like seconds.  I would like to think it was that the food was fab, but the real reason was more likely that everyone couldn’t wait for the main event of the evening -the video scavenger hunt – to begin.  We broke into 2 teams of 3 and off they went.  In an hour, they were back. We plugged the cameras into the TV and watched  some hysterical footage and  listened to stories that I’m sure will become family lore.  The best one being that the Hubs got the chief of the fire station to announce over the PA a call to all men on duty to report to the front of the firehouse, up went the huge roll up door to the station, and then as 7 fireman looked on, the Hubs and his fireman companion proceeded to Stop, Drop & Roll in style!

We feasted on birthday cake.  The kids all loved it, but I can’t say it’s one I would make again. A S’More Cheesecake. I’ll opt for real s’mores around a camp fire any day.


Big One’s boyfriend is editing up all of the video footage.  Maybe sometime soon, I’ll be able to post a link to our evening of craziness.  Until then, I’ll have to just share with you my secret foodie highpoint of the event.  Remember . . . that little first course I mentioned earlier?  Meet Fig & Prosciutto Salad. Let’s just say I made it again today I am so in love with it.  It screams summer, is super simple, and beautiful to boot.

The dressing consists of just olive oil, honey, and a little lemon juice (I used lime juice since I didn’t have a lemon on hand.  Toss it all in a jar and shake well.

Quarter you figs without cutting all the way through and place them on your platter.  Tear pieces of prosciutto and scatter around the figs.  Then add in some fresh basil leaves.

Drizzle the dressing over and serve.  I guarantee you’ll hesitate before digging in. It’s so simply beautiful that it demands admiration before consumption.



So Happy Birthday to the Big One!  I loved every moment of the celebration and my new personal summer hero is the fig one.

Here’s the full Fig & Prosciutto Salad Recipe which I adapted from Simple Provisions.

To Pin or Not to Pin – Herbed Summer Squash & Potato Torte

Pinterest. It’s like a train wreck sometimes.  I want to look away.  I know I should look away.  I know there are a million better ways that I could be spending my time.  But I just continue to stare and stare.  I have even been known to load all of the “popular” pins, sit there and scroll all the way to the bottom, and then press refresh and load a whole new batch of “popular”.  What a time suck.

We all say it. Right?  But why, oh why, do we continue to come back?  I guess it’s the new suburban-safe addiction.  And then I justify my addiction.  I tell myself that at least I no longer browse the “popular” pins.  At least I don’t pin ridiculous sayings like other people do. At least I don’t “follow” anyone (if I did, I know i would never escape the machine).  At least now I only USE for recipes and homeschool ideas. “Justify, justify, little brain.  You are wasting as much time and energy as everyone else and you know it.”

So some day, I may just go cold turkey from my “habit”.  Some day, I may return to my mother’s era and actually open a cook book or start clipping clever ideas from Ladies Home Journal.  How retro would that be?  Maybe some day I’ll put my money where my mouth is, and monitor my own “screen time” like I monitor my kids.  How funny would that be?  The system I use with them is that they earn Mom Dollars and Dad Bucks for all examples of good behavior.  They then can cash in 5 of those earned singles for 20 minutes of ipad or computer.  Maybe I could start paying myself for each load of laundry done.  Each meal cooked.  Each trip to the market.  Each time I refrain from gossip.  Each time I clean a bathroom.  Each time I give the Hubs some lovin’. Each time I’m a good listener.  Wonder how that would work out for me?

Well, until I decide to really go off the grid (which I fantasize about regularly), I’ll continue to just justify and take my hits of Pinterest when I  can.  I’ll continue to not follow anyone, and I’ll continue to to fill up my “Yum” and “School” boards.  And from time to time, I’ll share a killer find -like this recipe for Herbed Summer Squash & Potato Torte- with you all.

As with so many of these veggie recipes, I kicked things off with a little chopping.  On the block were the summer squash and the potatoes.



Then I mixed up a little breading which consisted of some scallions, freshly grated parmesan, flour, fresh thyme, and salt & pepper.

I took a large, oven-proof skillet, buttered the bottom and up the sides a bit, and then placed a layer of potatoes in concentric circles over the bottom.


A layer of summer squash went on top of the potato layer, again in concentric circles and again just slightly overlapping. I drizzled a touch of olive oil over and then added a layer of the breading mixture.  I repeated that sequence with one more layer of potatoes, another layer of squash, a tad more oil, and a final layer of the breading.  I pressed down the final assembly with a spatula to assure everything was well compacted.


I covered the skillet with foil, and into the oven it went at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  Then I removed the foil and baked another 25 minutes until everything was nice and brown.


I sprinkled some additional fresh scallions over as a garnish and served with roasted green beans and steamed cauliflower.


For such simple ingredients, the final product was quite flavorful.  It was the breading (I know I have been calling it that, but it doesn’t have even a hint of bread product in it), that really made this dish.

So thank you, Pinterest.  I’ll continue to loathe you, but we both know I’ll come crawling back again and again with all my lame excuses in tow.  That is, until I buy that ranch somewhere in the middle of nowhere and swear off all technological indulgences for good.

Here’s the complete recipe for Herbed Summer Squash & Potato Torte.

And hats off to the Smitten Kitchen for making your way onto Pinterest so that I could find this delightful recipe.

In the mood for more summer squash?  Try these . . .

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Squash (

Summer Squash, Sausage, and Potato Quiche (

It’s a Win-Win (Part II) – Blueberry Drop Biscuit Cobbler

One thing I failed to mention in Part I of It’s a Win-Win, is that I really wasn’t a blueberry fan prior to finding Temecula Berry Company. I always adored  McCloskey’s book, Blueberries for Sal – a family favorite in our house, but the fruit itself didn’t hold much appeal for me. I would eat them occasionally in fruit salads and when they were served by others, but I never bought them.  To me they were generally tasteless.  Well let me tell you, eating directly off the bush is a whole different experience.  They are just so flavorful – almost like a completely different fruit to me.

So if you haven’t ever gone blueberry picking, I really recommend it.  Here’s a handy little site that can help you locate places to pick berries as well as various other fruits and veggies –

Our No Bake Blueberry Cheesecake wiped out about half of our take in the picking.  That doesn’t account for all of the random munching – of which there was A LOT.  So with the other half we just had to go for a classic cobbler.

We did one with a drop biscuit crust and so started off by whisking together some flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then we mixed in butter with our fingers until little lumps formed. Finally, we mixed in sour cream being super careful not to over mix.


We sat the dough aside and got to work on the filling.  Super simple, really.  We just mixed the berries with sugar, a little flour, some lemon zest, and a bit lemon juice.


Once the filling was mixed, we spread it into the bottom of our dish, and then dropped the biscuit topping, by quarter-sized pieces, all over the top.  Nothing fancy at all.


Doesn’t it kind of look like cauliflower?

The whole thing baked for about 50 minutes, until it was golden brown on top, and then we let it cool for about an hour.  Of course, we had to eat it a la mode.  I mean it would have been a total cobbler travesty to have eaten it any other way.


And that, dear friends, completely finished off the fruits of our picking.

Here’s the recipe for Blueberry Drop Biscuit Cobbler if you want to give it a go.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

It’s a Win-Win (Part I) – No Bake Blueberry Cheesecake

I spend a significant amount of time doing things that I’m not exactly dying to do.  This always seems to astonish my children.  I think they actually believe that I’m INTO  driving back and forth to Water Polo and Soccer.  They are convinced that I get a real kick out of washing and folding laundry and loading and unloading the dishwasher.  Just last week, I was at a fundraiser at Pump It Up with four of my small people.  I finally said to the mom next to me, “Is it just me or are the hands on that clock simply not moving?”  Thankfully, she was down with my sentiment and didn’t look at me as though I were the worst mother on the face of the planet. So yes, the things that fill my days aren’t always high ranking on my dream roster or bucket list. A season for everything, right?

Now granted, I have made the choices leading me to where I am.  I recognize that and accept that.  I am not complaining, just being honest, folks.  I refuse to believe that even the most saintly of mothers jumps with joy over the prospect of, say, reading The Little Red Hen for the 42nd time in one morning or going to the library on the third Wednesday of the month for Read to Rover (yes, sitting and watching as your child reads to Guide Dogs.  Dogs.  I repeat – reading to dogs. Point made).  So you can easily understand, I hope, what a treat it is, when THEIR entertainment and enrichment can cozy up with any of MY passions.

Thus, my pure enthusiasm over heading out to go blueberry picking this past week.  They were exuberant at the thought of picking berries, and with friends at that.  I was looking forward to spending time with friends, but my wheels were already turning as to what we would make with so may fresh picked blueberries.  We headed for Temecula Berry Comany, a little blueberry farm that the fam and I discovered about four years ago.  We’ve made an annual pilgrimage there every year since.


Altogether, we picked 8 pints of berries.  Not too shabby, but I’m always astonished at how quickly they disappear.

We were invited to a friend’s house for dinner over the weekend and so of course I felt compelled to take a blueberry dessert.  Specifically, a No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake.

I started by tossing together some graham crackers, brown sugar, rolled oats, and salt for the crust.  I mixed it in the food processor until fine crumbs were formed.


After that, I mixed in melted butter and vanilla with the processor running until evenly moist crumbs were formed.  Then I pressed it into the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan.


I baked the crust at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until it was golden brown.

While the crust was baking, I sprinkled some unflavored gelatin over a bit of water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.


I then heated it over low heat until all of the gelatin was dissolved.

In the food processor, once again, I combined some cream cheese, whipping cream, sugar, and lemon juice and blended until it was smooth. Then I added a bunch o’ berries and blended again.


I slowly added the dissolved gelatin mixture with the processor running and mixed until everything was well blended.

I poured the filling into the crust and sent it off to chill.  I actually left it in the fridge overnight, just because I had enough time to do that and because the flavors blend so much better the longer they set.


The next day, I beat some cream and sugar into stiff peaks.


I spread the cream over the filling, and then topped all of that with more blueberries tossed with some melted blueberry jam.  Another few hours in the fridge and our blueberry treat was ready for prime time.


Now that’s what I call harmony – kids were entertained, food was gathered, and dessert resulted.  If you are a blueberry lover, stay tuned.  Next post on the way  . . . Blueberry Drop Biscuit Cobbler.

Want the recipe for No Bake Blueberry Cheesecake?  It’s here.

Recipe from Epicurious.

In a real blueberry mood?  Check out these other great blueberry recipes.

School’s Out for Summer – Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Veggies & Pesto Vinaigrette

I think I’m starting to decompress.  I think I’m starting to decompress.  If I repeat that another dozen times, maybe I’ll start to believe it.  About 4 million things have fallen off of my schedule in the last few weeks – with the biggest one being school.  Yes, I homeschool my children and yes, it’s insane.  But the implications of that on the cooking front is that I’m always trying to wedge dinner preparations into everything else I’ve got going on during the day.  Keeping all of the plates spinning is my boiled down job description.  And no, I won’t bore you with the names of each and every plate.  Just trust me when I say, “There are  A LOT of them!”

But with school finished for the year, I can take a more leisurely approach to things in my kitchen.  I love that.  I know for some people cooking is such a hassle, but for me it really is therapeutic.  I’ll take zesting a good lemon over journaling my innermost feelings any day.  Body combat workout to release my aggressions?  I’d rather beat egg whites into stiff peaks.  If I have the time, I like to linger over the steps of putting a meal together and not rush through things.  That’s exactly what I did in assembling this summer salad.

I started by making a nice pot of orzo, draining, rinsing, tossing with a little olive oil and setting it aside.  I truly think orzo is one of my favorite pastas.  There’s something about the size and the texture that just works for me.

shrimp orzo1

Then I chopped up some red bell pepper and summer squash.


I whisked together a little olive oil and red wine vinegar and brushed the veggies with the mixture.


Finally, I grilled the veggies until they were just browned and then set aside.  Yes, this was the inaugural busting out of the grill for the summer.


While the veggies were grilling, I had the peeled and deveined shrimp sitting in a little marinade of prepared pesto, lime juice, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.  As soon as the veggies came off the grill, on went the shrimp.  I grilled them for about 3 minutes per side and then pulled them off.  Actually, Medium Little One handled the grilling for me and did quite a fine job at it.


I chopped up some grape tomatoes and fresh basil (we are OVERRUN with basil, so if you find all recipes for the next 3 months oozing with basil, it’s not my fault it’s the garden’s), and then cubed some fresh mozzarella.  I tossed this all together with the orzo, the grilled veggies and the grilled shrimp and then poured my remaining pesto vinaigrette over.


I served it with some sweet potato fries and we were good to go.


So welcome summer!  I am so glad you are here.  No I won’t be grading anymore Singapore Math, nor will I be measuring soil compaction with knitting needles for Science Fair projects.  I will not be be nagging to complete your DOL, nor will I explain rotational symmetry for the 98th time.  I don’t care if you don’t know whether the pronoun is a subject pronoun or an object pronoun, and if you can’t remember to find a common denominator before comparing fractions, then that’s just your own problem for the next three months.  I’ll be lingering over summer recipes in my kitchen and sipping white wine while doing it.

For the complete Orzo with Grilled Shrimp Summer Veggies & Pesto Vinaigrette Recipe, click here.

Want to explore some more fun Orzo Recipes?

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Food Stereotypes – Lentil & Mixed Veggie Salad

Ever find yourself stereotyping people based on the way they talk, where they come from, or the way they dress?  I find myself stereotyping food.  For lots of foods I can embrace their versatility and have fun experimenting with them in different culinary contexts.  Then there are other foods that just stay stuck in a very specific place for me.  Enter – my friend, the lentil.  In my small, little mind, if you are a lentil you are a) being eaten in a nice Indian dish or b) being consumed in some bland, tasteless way by an individual wearing Birkenstocks and reading Walden.  How sad is it that I have limited the lentil in this way?

This poor legume has never done a thing to me and yet in all my years of cooking, I can honestly say that the only time I have put it on the table was in Amy’s canned lentil soup and in one of those heat in the bag, Indian deals – – – and then that was usually only to feed my kids, not myself. And yet, to read about it, the lentil doesn’t have a bad rap at all.  One serving of lentils contains 18g of protein and only 1g of fat. Great source of iron, with one serving chalking up 37% of the daily recommended intake. And on and on go the benefits.

So I recently set out to break down this legume barrier and bring the lentil to my table in all the glory it deserves.  My first attempt got great reviews from the family.  I made Sloppy Joe Lentil Lettuce Wraps.  Unfortunately, the pictures I snapped of those little puppies just didn’t do them justice.  I decided I would do the lentil’s already damaged reputation more harm if I were to post those pictures.  Maybe the next time around, I will have better luck in the photo department and then be able to share. So next on my list I tackled a Lentil and Mixed Veggie Salad. (I had also realized that I had sequestered the lentil to only Fall and Winter dishes and couldn’t fathom it in any light summer setting).

In all honesty, I’m not sure the actual lentil part of the salad turned out as it should have.  In fact, I almost aborted after step one of the recipe.  But I stayed the course, and, correct or not, the blending of flavors in this little number and the summer freshness and lightness that it offered were both  pleasant surprises.

I started off by rinsing the lentils.

lentils rinsed

Then, in a saucepan, I combined them with some finely diced garlic and a couple of bay leaves.


I added enough water to just cover the lentils, brought it to a boil, and then reduced the heat and simmered for about 40 minutes.

I drained them (there was basically no liquid left), and set them aside to cool.

While they were cooling, I chopped up some red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, carrots, basil & tomatoes.  I tossed those veggies with the cooled lentils, and then added in a sauce made of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper.

I placed it atop a bed of butter lettuce on a platter and served.

lentil platter

It was a great summer evening meal served with cantaloupe and avocados with walnut fig balsamic dressing along with a fresh baguette.  Filling and yet very light.

lentil fulltable

lentil serving

So I think I have made amends with the lentil.  I took me a while, but I did it.  Next up?  The lima bean – – – then again, maybe it’s good to tackle only one major life change a year.

Here is the complete recipe for Lentil & Mixed Veggie Salad