A Few of My Favorite Things -August

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A Few of My Favorite Things -August

A handwritten letter. It’s a bit of a lost art. That makes receiving one far more special, of course. When my sons went to camp, I relished the fact that there would be no email, texting or screens of any kind. We would write letters!

Imagine my delight when, just the other week, I received a heartfelt letter from a reader. Among her many kind words, Lydia mentioned looking forward to my Wednesday and Saturday emails, losing track of time as she explores the recipe archives and learning from (and being entertained by) the comments of her fellow readers. (Yes, that’s you!)

Lydia had two requests. First, since I often mention our garden and the produce it yields (truth be told, I’m far more successful with herbs than most vegetables!), could I share a photo of it in my next Favorite Things post? Second, do I have a recipe for corn pie? Lydia enjoyed corn pie as a child and would love to make it again.

So, I am kicking off our monthly Favorites post with a photo of our garden.⇩⇩The herbs and vegetables are surrounded by a variety of perennials, which become increasingly lush as the season progresses-and truly make the garden look like we worked a lot harder than we did!

Garden

As for the corn pie, I don’t have a recipe, so I am hoping one (or more!) of you does. If you do, please comment below or send me an email (by clicking on the “Contact Me” tab located at the top of the page or replying to a current email from me). I will share the recipes with Lydia-and in a future post if other readers would enjoy seeing them.🌽

In the same spirit and because I never seem to be able to share all of my current recipes when midsummer produce is aplenty, I’m including a no-cook bonus recipe featuring a light and crisp summertime staple (with special thanks to another reader).🥒

And while we’re chatting, please let me know if there’s a special recipe you would like to see. Reader input will help me choose what to share over the remaining weeks of summer. Recipes currently on repeat in our house include a variety of hearty summer salads, protein-rich dips (that also make filling sandwiches-I make them open-face), a one-pan pasta with tomatoes and basil, a light Thai cucumber salad, corn salads, recipes with roasted tomatoes and Matcha smoothies (even the non-matcha lovers adore these…when the kids are home I make a triple batch daily!). We’ve also been trying to eat more plant-based protein, so I have multiple new bean-centric recipes-and I even gave jackfruit a go. (The resulting “chicken” salad got excellent reviews!)

A special thank you to Lydia for her lovely letter⇩⇩and to all my wonderful readers for the interest and support you’ve provided over the years.💕 I look forward to more feedback…now let’s get to the official August list!

Favorite Things - a reader's handwritten letter

 

Favorite Book: The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love (by Kristin Kimball)

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love (by Kristin Kimball)

A friend gave me this book shortly after it was published in 2001, and it remains a favorite. The Dirty Life is the tale of a big city travel writer who, after falling in love with a farmer she interviewed for a story, leaves the creature comforts of urban living for a decidedly more challenging life on an organic farm.

Kimball chronicles the couple’s first year on Essex Farm, from the harsh winter through their harvest-season wedding in the barn’s loft. Their ambitious plan was to grow everything needed to feed their community-but Mother Nature didn’t make it easy.

I think of this book often during the summer growing season, as it provides a down-and-dirty insider’s account of how difficult life on a farm can be. Yet Kimball balances the ongoing tumult with a humorous touch that makes this inspiring memoir a true page-turner.

Mark and Kristin Kimball’s Essex Farm and its year-round CSA on New York’s Lake Champlain is still going strong. They occasionally offer tours, which I think would be interesting.

 

Tip of the month: Rubbing alcohol is the foolproof way to get stuck water out of ears and prevent Swimmer’s Ear.

A recent mention as to how many cases of Swimmer’s Ear my pediatrician friend has been seeing reminded me of something: not a single person at my summer camp when I was a girl ever got this painful but common ear infection-even though we swam daily in a lake-because we were always given a few drops of alcohol in each ear before we were even dry. The counselors used a dropper straight from the bottle, but most drug stores also sell “special” drops (see photo below), which are essentially smaller quantities of the same alcohol, packaged in a bottle that can be used as a dropper. (Convenient when traveling and for pool and beach bags, too.)

I’m a lap swimmer, so I have long used this tip when I have water stubbornly stuck in my ear, and no amount of head shaking to one side seems to help. We usually pour a little alcohol into the bottle cap and drip that into our ears until we feel it “glug” in. As soon as that happens, you can let the alcohol drip back out, and the water that was trapped there magically disappears. It’s actually rather cool!

Swimmers' Ear Drops

Reader favorite kitchen of the month:

“Beautiful clean lines” and the “great use of space” were just a couple of the reasons the following bright space was the top pick for the month of July. One detail that several readers hoped for (if this was their kitchen!) was a window over the sink.

Reader Favorite Kitchen

Favorite Quote: Without ice cream there would only be darkness and chaos.

Great quote by Mt. Desert Ice Cream in Portland, ME

Found on the window in Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream in Portland, Maine. If you’re in Portland, you must stop by for their delicious flavors, which run the gamut from the traditional-with-flare Callebaut Chocolate to the downright creative Butterscotch Miso and Cereal Milk.

Since we’re on the subject of ice cream, I can hardly not mention our recent visit to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterville, Vermont. If you’re in the area, it’s a fun outing. If you are not but enjoy podcasts, I recommend NPR’s How I Built This podcast, specifically the episode featuring company founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. It’s educational, interesting and just plain fun.

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour, Waterville, VT

 

Easiest meal that I’ve been making for myself-no recipe needed!

Sweet Potato Toast

You may have heard about sweet potato “toast.” It was all the rage a year or two ago. My friend Emma (of Emma’s Favorite Cupcakes fame😍) recently told me that she’s been using the concept for easy meal prep. Now I’m doing it, too. Here’s what to do:

Instead of toasting slices of sweet potato, which takes a long time, she bakes them, cools and then refrigerates for use as needed. So smart! Accordingly, I cut the sweet potatoes into ½-inch thick slices (I keep the peels on), spray each side with olive or avocado oil spray, and then bake at 425℉ for about 18-20 minutes, or until just tender and golden brown on the bottom. (Note that this “toast” will not be crispy in the traditional sense. Also, if you’d like to brown the tops a little more, broil for a minute or two at the end of the baking time.)

From there, you can top as desired. Emma likes to rewarm the slices (when they’ve been made in advance) and then spread with almond or peanut butter and sliced bananas.⇩⇩A sprinkle of cinnamon or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup is a nice touch if you enjoy a hint of added sweetness.

For a savory, filling meal, I’ve been topping the sweet potato with canned wild salmon (which is a fantastic alternative to tuna, rich in heart-healthy Omega-3s and economical), sliced avocado, pickled onions, a sprinkle of salted pepitas, and a drizzle of sriracha mayo (just a little mayo with sriracha added to taste). It’s a great meal (fork and knife work best) and once the sweet potato is cooked, the preparation is nothing more than quick assembly.

For an alternative protein source, you could top with white beans instead of salmon (or use leftover salmon), or spread with hummus and vary the veggies to taste. Guacamole could be used instead of sliced avocado, you could sneak a few greens and/or sprouts in there, and an over-medium egg would be a stellar topper, too. And how about a tuna melt?

Don’t like sweet potatoes? Try this easy meal with Yukon Gold potatoes. Helpful hint: when choosing potatoes, look for wider spuds that allow for good slices. Some sweet potatoes, in particular, are rather skinny.

Sweet Potato Toast

Current favorite zucchini preparation: Baked Zucchini Fries!

I took a few prep shots of these. If you notice that some look a little more yellow than others, that’s because I was testing whether an egg white or the whole egg (used to make the crispy coating stick) yielded a better end result.

Are you interested in this recipe? If so, I can share specifics soon. Basically, the spears are dredged in flour (all-purpose or gluten-free), dipped in egg, tossed in a 2:1 mixture of seasoned panko (again, GF is fine) and Parmesan and then baked at 425℉ (preferably on an oil-sprayed rack for better crispness all around) for 20-22 minutes. They’re so tasty. (By the way, the final verdict between the whole egg and the white? It was a tie!)

Baked Zucchini Fries


 

The following chilled cucumber soup recipe was shared with me by Karen, a reader who found it in an AARP publication. Karen first made the soup as a way to use the abundant supply of cucumbers from her garden, and returned to it for its great flavor and utter ease. (Karen happens to live in my neighborhood, and she kindly dropped off a sample!) The specific AARP article was titled “Best Served Cold” and included easy, no-cook recipes with minimal ingredients. We think fresh dill adds something extra special.

☀️Happy August to all, and please remember to share corn pie recipes for Lydia!☀️

Cold Cucumber Dill Soup
Yield: 4 servings
A crisp, creamy, refreshing soup that takes minutes to make-and no cooking required!
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups diced English cucumber*
  • 3 tablespoons chopped scallion
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ cups sour cream (for best flavor, use regular rather than fat-free or light)**
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
Instructions

In a food processor or blender, process all of the ingredients until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.

Chill and serve cold.

Notes

*Karen used regular cucumbers from her garden, removing the seeds before chopping. She thought the skins tasted bitter, so she peeled the cucumbers. I typically include the skins when making cold cucumber soup. Choose according to your preference-perhaps tasting first!

**Karen and I both made this soup with full fat sour cream, which yields a delightfully tangy yet deliciously smooth flavor and a thick, creamy consistency. I have not tried reduced fat sour cream or Greek yogurt, which should work but would change the flavor somewhat. If you do try, please report back!

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

 

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Comments

  1. Helen S.

    Is it possible that the corn pie is an old Pennsylvania Dutch type of recipe?
    There are a couple of sites on the web that offer recipes for such.

    Reply
  2. Gail

    My mom used to purchase frozen corn pies when I was growing up. (she did not care to cook so meals were often frozen or canned) As I remember the corn pies were really good and other than corn and hard boiled eggs I cannot remember what else might have been in the pies. But they were really good. The corn pie request from a reader brought back good memories of the pies and I would love to make one now with all the fresh corn available.

    Reply
  3. Susan Ericson

    I agree, letter writing is a lost art. What a shame, as it is so much more personal. Sometimes I long for days before cell phones. Your garden is lovely, puts mine to shame! I even managed to kill mint this year! Love the idea of prepping ahead. I am always interested in dishes that can be made in advance. I also love slow cooker recipes and would welcome some lighter summertime meals for the slow cooker. Sorry, I am not familiar with corn pie, would like to try it though. I think the kitchen of the month is very sleek and beautiful. My kitchen is more on the country side and I have been told very homey. I don’t see many like that anymore except in country magazines. I love antiques so I wish there more focus on that type of look. I do have a question for you, Ann. You have so many great dinner recipes, what would be your favorite dinner if you could have any thing you wanted?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Susan-and for your persistence, as I know we’ve had some technical glitches with your previous comments! I am laughing that you killed your mint-and wishing I could share. We’ve had some misses, too. For example, several of our tomato plants were total duds this summer. And try as we may and despite rotating where we plant it, every year we get little wormlike creatures that eat through the leaves of our kale. I should probably give up on that one!

      If there’s anything special you’d like in the slow cooker department, I may be able to offer some suggestions. And as for my favorite meal… I am SO bad about choosing favorites, which I guess is why I have a new list each month. My top choices would ultimately vary with the seasons, too. However, if I had to choose just one dinner, I’d pick a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with crispy skin and a hearty green salad loaded with roasted vegetables, crunchy nuts and seeds, good feta and a fabulous vinaigrette that brings it all together. Dessert would have to be ice cream. When it comes right down to it, I’m rather boring!

      Reply
  4. Gail

    Was out shopping on Saturday afternoon with a friend on Rt 322 just above Ephrata. Since I could not very easily make a left hand turn coming out of the parking lot my friend told me to turn right. There is another way to go. At the light by Horst Auctions we made a left hand turn, going down a back country road. First I saw a handmade sign at a home for meadow tea. A short while after I saw another homemade sign at another home for Corn Pies. So corn pies must be a popular PA Dutch meals. Since neither my friend or I care to purchase homemade items prepared by someone we do not know we did not stop. but we thought it was amusing to see both meadow tea and corn pies which were recently on your site,

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      It’s so funny when things like that happen. I’ve felt that way with books recently. Someone mentions a book that I’ve never heard of, and then I hear the same title mentioned two or three times in the following days. (Upon which I buy the book!) Whatever the purchases, it sounds like your Saturday afternoon was lovely!

      Reply
  5. Jane B. Post author

    Here’s a recipe for corn pie. I have never made this one, so you might want to try it yourself first. It’s from the 1959 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, page 235. The recipes in that cookbook do tend to be good – – real old-fashioned home cooking.

    CORN PIE

    1 1/4 cup fine cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 Tb butter, 1 1/4 cup milk, 2 cups fresh raw corn (2 or 3 ears), 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tb flour, 1/2 tsp onion salt (optional), 2 eggs (beaten)

    1. Combine crumbs and melted butter. Reserve 1/2 cup of mixture for topping. Line 9″ pie pan with 3/4 cup of crumb mixture.
    2. Combine butter, 1 cup milk, corn and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook 3 minutes.
    3. Add flour to the remaining 1/4 cup milk; mix to smooth paste. Add slowly to hot milk-corn mixture, stirring constantly. Cook 2 or 3 minutes, or until thick.
    4. Cool slightly. Add onion salt. Add eggs slowly, stirring constantly.
    5. Pour into crumb-lined pan. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over top. Bake in hot oven (400*) 20 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Jane, Thank you for sharing this. It looks intriguing, and I love those old cookbooks that stand the test of time. I really need to make a corn pie myself. The more I think about it, the better it sounds!

      Reply
        1. Ann Post author

          I think you could definitely make it gluten-free, Susan. There are so many good GF cracker options available these days. I’d love to hear what you think if you try!

          Reply
  6. Susan Ericson

    I was thinking of a seafood or vegetable stew for the slow cooker, something using summer produce. Salmon is one of my favorites too. Sometimes the simple things are best!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I will stew on that (bad pun!). I don’t often cook seafood in a slow cooker, simply because the cooking times tend to be short. There is an upside to the slow cooker and the fact that it doesn’t heat up the kitchen though. One simple thing that you may enjoy is this chicken prep recipe, as the chicken can be used in so many ways throughout the week: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/slow-cooked-chicken-for-the-week-or-to-freeze/.

      Summer produce can also be added to these taco bowls: https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/slow-cooker-taco-chicken/ … and if you enjoy pork, I have a couple of recipes that rely on a slow cooker and can be the basis for meals that incorporate lots of veggies. Hope this is somewhat helpful, and I will keep thinking!

      Reply