Vegetarian Pesto Pasta Salad

Summer is in full swing, which means everyone needs a picnic pasta salad recipe, including you!  Cold salads are great for lunches, beach coolers and midday hikes so mix this up, throw it in a jar and eat it in the sunshine!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 large cucumber peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow or red sweet pepper chopped
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 box of your favorite penne or rotini (I’m a big fan of this veggie pasta)
  • 2 heaping cups fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts if pine nuts aren’t available)
  • 2/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

The how:

  • Put a pot of water on to boil and add a tsp of salt to it.  Once the water boils, cook the pasta according to the box.  Drain and set aside to cool.
  • Clean the basil and add it to the blender along with the peeled garlic, nuts, 1/3 cup olive oil and the parmesan.  Add more olive oil until it reaches the desired consistency.  Add a few shakes of salt and pepper to taste.  Set the pesto aside.
  • Chop up the pepper and broccoli and add them to a large serving bowl. Peel and cut the carrots.  Peel the cucumber, cut it in half long ways and scoop out the seeds. Chop up the cucumber and add it to the bowl.  Rinse off the peas.  If you’re using frozen peas, defrost them in a bowl of hot water for five minutes then drain and add them to the other veggies.
  • Add the pasta to the serving bowl and mix in half of the pesto.  Add more pesto spoonful by spoonful until desired coverage is reached.  (Save the remaining pesto to hydrate the pasta salad in the future.)  Sprinkle some parmesan on the salad if you wish.
  • Keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.

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I promise this pesto pasta salad will rival the classic mix of meat, cheese and pasta that your mother used to make.  Enjoy!

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Mosquito-repelling Plants

I know it seems a bit late in the season to do a planting post, but by now many gardens have reached their peak, and this is when I find myself wandering around neighborhoods looking at the yards and getting inspiration for next year. So, if you’re a planner like me, I thought you might like to hear about how we put the flower beds around the beach house’s outdoor shower to work for us.

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The Eastern Shore area is known for its mosquitos. There have been years when we’ve visited Chincoteague and find ourselves running from the car to the front door and still having dozens of mosquitos on us! Or times when we’ve camped and can see the little insects perched on our tent waiting for their next meal. Needless to say, we were prepared for the mosquitos when we moved over to Saxis and ready to put up a fight in order to enjoy the outdoor shower.

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The shower is located at the back of the house, just around the corner from the back door that opens into the kitchen. We created one flower bed that fills the space from the back steps around the corner of the house to the shower. We also made this a garden area that transitions from herbs (for use in the kitchen, but working double-duty as mosquito deterrents) to our ornamental and aromatic mosquito garden. When it came to picking plants, we went with ones that would do well in this location, which was pretty easy since it’s a sunny spot right next to the hose, so water and light were not constraints. There are a lot of plants that repel mosquitoes, but we were particularly interested in the ones that do double duty, either as edible herbs or as fragrant flowers.

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Fortunately for us, it seems like the constant spray of water from the shower head keeps them at bay while it’s on. But adding these plants helps to further deter mosquitos from the area which is nice as you’re walking to and from the shower and when you’re in the stall getting undressed and dressed without the water running.

Mosquito-repelling Plants

  • catmint
  • creeping thyme
  • lavender
  • lemongrass
  • lemon-scented geranium (the citronella scented variety has been shown to be ineffective)
  • mint
  • rosemary

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How do these plants work their magic? They each have aromatic compounds, the same ones that make these plants appealing to us, that repel the mosquitos.

As a result, many of the plants on our list work best when their aromas are released, either by rubbing or crushing their leaves. We planted the rosemary, lemon-scented geranium, and lavender closest to the edge of the bed (leaving some room for them to expand). The idea being that people will brush these plants with their legs as they walk from the steps to the shower, releasing the plants’ aromas. The mint is in pots and in a particularly well-gaurded corner of the bed (trying to tame its wild growth). Their fragrance is released every day around happy hour when we’re out there picking leaves for mojitos. The creeping thyme is planted in the small space between the cement slab and the base of the shower; the perfect location for people to step on it and release its fragrance as they are getting into and out of the shower. The lemongrass is planted along one edge of the shower providing a simple natural screen on the side that is most public.

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I also included catmint on our list, but didn’t plant this in the shower garden area. It’s a tall plant and didn’t fit in well with the design for this small corner, so we put it on the other side of the back porch. It’s a surprisingly useful plant, with compounds that are 10 times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitos! With results like that, I had to at least mention it in this post.

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And, of course, if mosquitos are a problem in your yard, one of the best things you can do is to make sure you empty any standing, untreated fresh water. For example, all of those road ruts from your off-roading escapades and the holes you made looking for that buried treasure? Fill them in. Be a leader, not a breeder.

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Mosquito poster from Wikimedia commons.
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Half of Seasoned Turns A Quarter!

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If you have been following along, you know that Katie and I are both July babies.  It’s a little part of our relationship that we absolutely love!  July just seems like the perfect month for a birthday and a party for that matter.  Or does everyone think that about their birthday month?  This year I turned twenty-five!  A quarter of my life has been lived and I only have seventy-five left! Yes, I plan on living to a hundred.

I don’t put too much emphasis on having an “amazing” birthday because I think all that added pressure can really ruin a perfectly good day.  Each year I try to have a really good “normal” day and because of that every birthday seems perfect!  What’s your equation for a great birthday? Do you plan a party or some special adventure? Do you secretly hope others make your day fabulous? Do you go with the flow and see where your b-day takes you?

This year I went on a lovely morning hike with some pups and then I went grocery shopping and bought myself $50 worth of cheese, berries and fresh flowers because who doesn’t love all of those things?  After gorging on raspberries and cheese I cooked a tomato tart and waited for Kevin’s parent’s to arrive.  This was their first visit to our apartment in North Carolina (it’s a 500 mile drive!) and it happened to land right on my birthday!  In the meantime Kevin gifted me a Camelbak (I borrow his ALL the time), an old fashioned ice cream scoop (he knows I hate bending our spoons, but I love super hard ice cream) and twenty yoga classes at my favorite studio (BEST present ever).  Once the rents arrived, we went to a great restaurant in Carrboro called Venable.  Kevin and I had been meaning to try it for awhile and it was better than we anticipated!  I ate the buffalo mozzarella ravioli with lemon-arugla pesto and I had panna cotta with raspberries for dessert.  I also drank several mule variation cocktails.  It was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. ever.  It was a blend of spicy ginger ale, vodka, cucumber, lime and fresh sage.  I plan on trying to recreate that little baby for the blog so stay tuned!  After our delicious meal, Kevin’s parents drove to their hotel while we wondered what to do.

We wanted to celebrate some more, but I also really wanted to hang out with Ca$h the dog so we decided to do both!  We looked up all the dog bars in Chapel Hill (there is four!) and settled on The Underground.  After adorning Ca$h with a few accessories we put on our walking shoes and headed to the bar.  The Underground was actually pretty calm.  The twenty or so folks in the bar were excited to see our pup and he was given lots of pets and hugs!  Around midnight when the bar cleared out, Rick, the bartender, told us to take Ca$h off the leash, which made our time even more enjoyable.  Kevin and I were playing pool so it was nice to be leash-free.  Ca$h could happily roam where ever his little hound nose lead him, which was mostly to the ladies room.  He also laid in front of the door for awhile and acted as the bouncer.  No under-agers here!

Two games of pool and eight games of air hockey later, we were finally ready to head out.  We decided to sit at the bar and have one more drink and that’s when something pretty awesome happened.  Ca$h joined me and sat on the bar stool next to me for my final birthday drink.  He was our designated leader so he didn’t partake, but having my pup pal next to me made my birthday that much sweeter.  He even snuck behind the bar to bid Rick a final farewell before we left!

As if my birthday couldn’t get any better, about a block from home, Ca$h quickly circled Kevin, wrapping Kevin’s ankles in the leash and tripping him!  Kevin, disoriented (ok, and drunk) dropped the retractable leash and Ca$h went running!  (I wasn’t worried because we were a block from home and our neighborhood is very, very calm and quiet.)  As I’m doubled over laughing hysterically, here comes Ca$h bounding down the middle of the street right towards us, but one thing was missing: his leash!  He got tangled on something and ran away so fast that it snapped right off about two feet from his collar.  If you know Ca$h, you know that he’s sporadically crazy.  Ca$h’s tangle, trip and escape was the cherry on top of my ice cream sundae of a twenty-fifth birthday!

I finished out my twenty-fifth birthday weekend (I hope you’re all with me when I say birthday celebrations are meant to last more than 24 hours) by visiting several new restaurants including Allen & Sons, Mama Dips and Squids.  I also tried raw oysters for the first time and I loved them.  I’ll definitely be hitting up Oyster Fest this year! I also went to my first Durham Bulls baseball game, which was the best 15 bucks I’ve ever spent! I highly recommend going to a minor league game.  You’ll get to see some major leaguers without the price tag and helllllllllo, peanuts and cracker jacks and in this case, local craft brews!  After the game, we all roamed around the American Tobacco campus, which has a handful of restaurants and taprooms as well as lovely old brick architecture.  Of all my first experiences this weekend, I think my favorite was visiting Honeysuckle Tea House with Kevin’s mom.  We spent a good two hours lounging in the open air structure sipping spicy ginger kombucha among tinctures, elixirs, balms and medicinal herb mixtures.  Afterwards, we walked the herb gardens and I snagged some Thai basil, which I have such a hard time finding in grocery stores.  (You can expect a Thai recipe soon!)  This past weekend was one for the birthday record books.  It was an inspiring couple of days between all the new food, cocktails and experiences.  It was a great reminder to travel and explore even in your hometown.

(Just so you know: The next day I found Ca$h’s retractable lease wrapped around a cherry blossom tree in our neighbor’s front yard! Also, all these pics are from cell phones so please excuse their quality! Thanks Kev & Kathy for capturing this memorable weekend!)

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Fresh Mint Ice Cream

Mint is our ingredient of the season. In the kitchen we’ve made a few alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, salads, and meatballs. For the bathroom we made a refreshing foot scrub and some non-toxic deodorant.

You know the mint ice cream in your grocer’s freezer section? This is nothing like that. This ice cream gets all of its minty flavor from fresh mint, and with that comes a deep, green, earthy flavor from the plant. That description may sound crazy for ice cream, but when you eat fresh mint you taste so much more than the isolated mint flavor that’s added to commercial ice cream. By infusing the milk and cream with fresh mint, you’re adding those layers of complexity to this very simple dessert.

As I was sharing a cone with A. Max this afternoon, I was trying to think of another way to convey the flavor of this ice cream. At our house growing up, there was so much mint growing around the edge of the garden that it would get cut with the lawn mower. Have you ever experienced that? Mint getting cut with the green grass on a hot summer day? That’s this ice cream.

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Summer Reading!

Did you have a fun weekend? Sarah and I had a blast, albeit, doing very different things in different parts of the country. Her weekend started with a celebration of her birthday, complete with an adventure with Ca$h that deserves to be shared. My weekend involved our first every family road bike ride up the mountain to Maroon Bells.

Today we’re taking it easy and planning for the week ahead. One thing we’re thinking about is Friday’s post. Rather than our semi-regular links post this Friday, we’re going to discuss our first summer read, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood.

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Did you have a chance to read it yet? Sarah and I both loved the book, definitely not because it was a fairytale, but because of its amazing power to transport us to a time, place, and situation that we’ve never experienced.

If you haven’t read it, we strongly encourage you to pick up a copy and join us on Friday. The Kindle version is under $8.00, and totally worth it.

If you have or are reading the book, here are some discussion questions that we came across and thought would make for an interesting discussion:

  • Given their dangerous surroundings in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia and a long streak of what young Bobo describes as “bad, bad luck,” why do you think the Fuller family remains in Africa?
  • What do you think of Fuller’s mother and father? How would you describe them? Do you think they were good parents?
  • Animals are ever present in the book. How do the Fullers view their domesticated animals, as compared to the wild creatures that populate their world?
  • Consider Fuller’s interactions with black Africans, including her nanny in Rhodesia and the children she plays “boss and boys” with, as well as with Cephas the tracker and, later, the first black African to invite her into his home. Over the course of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, how does the narrator change and grow?
  • By the end of the narrative, how do you think the author feels about Africa? Has the book changed your own perceptions about this part of the world?
  • The back cover calls the book “unsentimental and unflinching”. This is especially true of her description of the racial attitudes of white settlers: she does not apologize for them nor explains them away, but neither does she justify or excuse them. Do you find this this unsettling or do you appreciate the honesty. How do you react to this choice?

We hope you’ll join us on Friday! And until then, we have some good stuff planned for this week.

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In Season: Playing with Food

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I saw so many fun food-related ideas on the interweb this week. And the list was born.

These macarons are amazing! I am a total sucker for anything that has the top-view of citrus cut in half printed on it. That was a complicated description, do you know what I mean?

Along those lines, if you live in Florida (Kandy), you should hang this in your kitchen!

How awesome is the stormy seas cake in this post? Now I want Little A to have a sea-themed party.

I really want to print fabric with an ear of corn… but what to make with the finished panel? A scarf? Something for A.max? Ideas please!

Did you see the cute gum drop ice cream cones by Oh Happy Day?

Name that kabob!

 

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Six Summer Spice Blends

What’s better than barbecuing in the summer? I argue nothing. Absolutely nothing. Oh and what is worse than smelling your neighbors delicious barbecue and knowing that you have nothing to grill in the house? Don’t you hate that?  Well hopefully you have some type of meat, seafood or veggie protein in the house because today we’re talkin’ spice rubs.  Sometimes I get caught in flavor ruts where I end up putting salt, pepper, onion and garlic on everything.  I don’t know how it happens. I have an entire cupboard of spices, but my hands gravitate to the usual suspects.  I’m proud to report that that is not the case this summer! I started mixing up a few spice blends and keeping them in jars so that I have the perfect concoction in a pinch.  Today I’m sharing some of my summer favorites.

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Watermelon Dill Gazpacho + Coconut Lime Crema

I didn’t discover gazpacho until my late teens, but I’ve been in love ever since.  It’s the perfect meal for a hot summer day and you best believe that’s the norm here in North Carolina.  In college, I worked at a catering company and I remember scrunching up my nose when I read gazpacho on the hor d’oeuvre menu.  I had no clue what it was and when another waitress told me it was basically cold soup, I was a little weirded out by the idea.  One of the chefs saw that whole interaction, pulled me aside, listed off the ingredients and gave me a sample.  I was hooked.  It really wasn’t what I was expecting at all.  I thought it would taste like V8 and I really couldn’t imagine eating a whole bowl of it, but it turned out to be thinner and sweeter with a little pang of spice.  Since my catering days, I’ve played around with a few different recipes so today I’ll share my favorite for sweltering summer days.  Watermelon Dill Gazpacho with Coconut Lime Crema is almost like a treat instead of lunch.  It’s slightly sweet, very light and refreshing and there’s no spice so you won’t be sweating over your cold soup ;)

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Equipment:

  • Blender (I used a ninja)

Gazpacho Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cubed (very ripe) tomato
  • 5 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup peeled cucumber
  • 2 TBSP fresh dill + more to garnish
  • salt & pepper to taste

Gazpacho Recipe:

  • Blend the tomato and watermelon until smooth.  Add in the olive oil and vinegar and blend for an additional minute.  Blend in the cucumber and dill for about a minute until incorporated, but not completely emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to suit your tastes.
  • Garnish with a sprig of dill and a slice of avocado and yellow sweet pepper if desired.  I highly recommend serving the gazpacho with a dollop of coconut lime crema.

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Coconut Lime Crema Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked for at least 4 hours
  • 2 TBSP lime juice
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBSP coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup cool water
  • Pinch of salt

Coconut Lime Crema Recipe:

  • Add the soaked cashews, lime juice, salt and water to the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add the coconut milk and blend until creamy.
  • Gently drip the coconut lime crema into the bowls immediately before serving.

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I truly believe the coconut lime crema makes this dish.  It adds a perfect creamy component to the chilled watermelon.  It’s also a more familiar taste so you can really wrangle in any guests who tend to eat on the safe side.  If you’re not in the mood to make the crema, garnish the gazpacho with slices of avocado and sprigs of dill.  The contrasting colors in this dish make it a pretty party food. I love serving gazpacho in small servings at get togethers that way guests don’t have to commit to an entire bowl of unknown, ya know?  It’s also fun to play around with different designs and patterns in each glass. This watermelon gazpacho will fly off the buffet before you have time to fill up more shot glasses.  I’m actually eating a whole bowl of it as I type!

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Colorado Hike : Chautauqua Park

We love to get out for hikes as often as possible and thought it would be fun to document these little adventures, like our recent trip to Maroon Bells.

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Last weekend we decided to stay close to home, wanting to explore more of what Boulder has to offer, so for our weekend hike we headed to Chautauqua Park (pronounced with a soft “shhh” for the CH – I’m still getting the hang of it!). Chautauqua was one of the older open space areas purchased by the city over 100 years ago when it began preserving wild lands. The park is home to the Colorado Chautauqua  Association, which provides cultural and educational programs throughout the year. Among its many buildings and features, the Association has a dining hall, general store, and cottages that you can rent! On this particular day we skipped all of the buildings and headed straight for the hills, but we’re hoping to stop in to the dining hall for brunch after our next hike.

**Before moving to Boulder, I was unfamiliar with Chautauqua, the adult education movement. Were you?

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Arriving at the park, we knew it was a popular weekend destination, but were overwhelmed by just how many people were there. These pictures don’t do the crowds justice. At all times there were people in front of us, behind us, scaling the rock face to our right and left. There were babies laughing (and crying), there were more college-age girls chatting away than I wish to remember. Ugh, it was crowded. But, the scenery totally made up for it, and I can’t wait to get back out there on a weekday. A friend also tipped me off that if we start at Four Pines on King St., then we won’t hit the crowds. Keep that secret.

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Before heading out, we asked for some trail recommendations and received a number of excited responses suggesting Royal Arch Trail, but it was still closed for raptor nesting.  So, with all of the well-marked trails in the park, we decided to wing it. We headed up Chautauqua Trail, made a left on Blue-Baird Trail, and then came back down on Bluebell Trail. In total, the hike took about an hour.

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As you hike up the hill you leave the grasslands behind, entering the pine forests and areas of exposed bedrock and boulders of the Flatirons.

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There are two climbers in the photo on the right above! They are near the top of the single pine tree that’s growing out of the rock face. Eventually you reach a few open areas overlooking the city.

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liveseasoned_summer2014_hike18Just like last week’s hike, there were plenty of flowers blooming here with a promise of more to come.

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On our way back down the hill (mountain?) we left the pine trees behind and welcomed the grasses again. As you can see from these photos, the skies were overcast for our whole hike, but I think that worked to our advantage, keeping us cooler and less worried about sunburns as we walked.

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Extra Details:

  • Knowing that the area is popular on weekends, we were worried about parking, but easily found on-street parking a few blocks from the entrance.
  • I had a hard time finding a good trail map online, until I looked to Google. Google’s map of the park is great, with all trails well marked!
  • A hiking-with-kids tip: We knew we were heading out during Little A’s naptime, so rather than take the hiking carrier that doesn’t offer him anywhere to rest his head, we put him in the Ergo on Calder’s back. It was an easy carry for this short hike, and within a minute Alex was content and sleeping with his head supported between Calder’s back and the Ergo’s hood.

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