Category Archives: Summer

Reap what you sow as long as you let go…

img_6960

One of my first gardens, tucked in a sunny spot of a shady backyard in Seattle, had a tomato. Patiently I waited for this first fruit to change colors…. willing myself to not pick it until it was the bloodiest of reds. When the fateful moment arrived, my tomato had been selected by another creature who hid their thievery from me by nibbling on the back hidden side.

Oh, the disappointment.

There have also been the encouraging carrots with fat orange hats above ground that you finally pull only to realize they have grown an incredible… inch. And don’t even get me started about tomatillos! Dripping with bulbous green lanterns as you stand with basket in hand hours before the first frost is to arrive and there is absolutely no significant fruit inside those papery promises.

Sigh.

All that work, digging, mending, sowing, tending only to be diminished when the harvest wasn’t exactly what you anticipated when you first planted that seed many months ago. Well, now there is a metaphor I cannot let slide by. Much of my life has been work, hit the grindstone, work, plant a seed, more work, sweat and tears only to see the fruit is odd, misshapen, missing in action or quite a bit different than that original dream. How are you supposed to be grateful when you are also a tad disappointed? Or maybe the right word is… bewildered?

Because there is also purslane. Technically most gardeners consider it a weed, but don’t tell that to the up and coming hot chefs. Purslane takes over many a garden including my own, but harvested, cleaned up and bundled with golden string it became a hit at a recent farm stand. It is succulent in texture, with almost a lemony undertone. It is a superfood with rising popularity and it is being sold for several dollars more than the one buck I was asking for my wee bundles.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-3-40-36-pmTalking up purslane’s magic while selling them at the farm stand wasn’t hard either. It is a micro green that can be cooked with eggs or it holds up nicely in salads. Stick it in a smoothie and it will thicken your drink into goodness. Or go Mexican with it. Call it verdalagos and create a beautiful traditional dish by the same name.

Despite any disappointments or confusions at harvest time, look closely as your garden (or maybe your life?) probably has other plans for you if you dare to keep present, keep looking and more importantly keep sowing. If you don’t plan any seeds, you will never be in the garden seeking to harvest.

A few years ago, we brought seeds back from Arizona. These sacred desert covenants seemed perfect for our new Rocky Mountain dry climate, and we figured we could simply water them less. All of our attempts to emulate Tucson were foiled by a rather wet and cool season. This fortunately tamed any drought threats to our state so in the end we were more grateful than not, but it was sad to feel our seeds were wasted. We had invested so much love into the beans, chiles and squash we were attempting.  

One of the plants we grew is called Ha:l from the Tohono O’dom tribe of the Sonoran desert. We were thrilled when it reached across our yard, twirling itself up to our porch and then all the way back to our driveway. It was a monstrous mammoth, taking over our garden covered in bright flowers and itty-bitty fruits full of promise. And then, one by one the fruits would make it to about two inches only to rot and die off. We shrugged, trimmed it back and figured Colorado was just too moist for this precious arid beauty.

Fast forward two years and we now have a ‘squash’ plant entangling itself throughout the yellow straight neck and cocozelle zucchini. A few weeks ago the fruit formed, round and glorious, neither zucchini nor pumpkin, but suspiciously reminiscent of those little cuties that were doomed back in 2014.img_6965

I sent our dear Tucson farming buddies a picture of the fruit. He responded there is a good chance it was indeed the Ha:l. He also mentioned that the leaves when mature get white splotches. Bingo! This beauty of a plant in fact has almost white stain glass throughout its leaves. Finally, I sliced up a fruit and tasted what I remembered in Tucson, texture and disposition of zucchini, but with a slight sweetness that is hard to miss. I plan to harvest the smallest fruits for a time, but as the Tohono O’dom do, I plan to leave some fruits for a late harvest once the shell has hardened and it has become pumpkin-like. The two-for-one delight of this plant is what has me beyond grateful to receive this volunteer in our garden.

If you are new to gardening please take heart, we are newbies as well, but we keep coming back to the soil with increasing hope. We had no intentions to grow Ha:l this year and quite frankly after the confusion two years ago and lack of easy access to their seeds, we weren’t planning to try again, but the garden is certainly a place where tiny miracles seem to come and go. As long as you are able to relax into the idea that planting a dream is risky business with the timeline and outcome not yours to dictate. Keep the soil rich, tend, mend, and allow your wildest hopes to slowly take root as something glorious will eventually come to fruition. 

Heal after Hail.

IMG_6970

Onions torn apart by our June hailstorm.

Through this local food year, gaining wisdom around food and life is one of our many desires. It feels much of this can only be attained through a full dive-in experience, allowing the good with the bad. We planted our garden in between all of the cool and nearly freezing days of May, only to experience the heatwave that was June.

Our garden responded in kind and it was only in the last week that I thought… yup, I think we might get some deliciousness soon as I spied the first teeny cucumbers and peppers. We even harvested our first three cherry tomatoes, popping them in our mouth and tasting the juice of a promise: summer has arrived.

I am not sure we fancy ourselves ‘farmers’ although several friends grant us this title. That being said, a couple evenings ago we felt one of the many hardships that a farmer endures. The devastation of weather.

Just writing that makes me tear up a bit. Not because our garden has been completely wiped out, but because I know that as intense and abusive as that hailstorm felt with its sideways wind, rain and the golfballs ricocheting against anything they touch, rather, I know how often weather is much worse for a farmer whose livelihood depends on their land.

I do not feel sadness because of my own loss, rather looking at our coleslaw of a garden I think of farmers past and present whose crops have been completely eliminated by the unforeseen. That depth of empathy, swallows me up as I assess the damage that is thankfully not that awful.

The truth is that hail, tornados, wind, fire, hurricanes, heat waves and all the possible or impossible seeming storms, are a part of life for a farmer, but as humans we have our own disasters that strike in large or small ways. When life is torn down, the force to start over gives fuel to the next attempt. And that is the important part, to rise up and try again.

A friend a few houses away commented about how the plants have become mulch for his garden. I was struck by his quick thought to honor this moment and recognize that while us modern gardeners can easily find mulch to buy, nature loves to get in and assist when possible. Actually, even before this storm, composting the devastation has been on my mind a lot as I consider recent dramas both personal and global. Finding ways to mulch our catastrophe can create the nutrients needed for the next harvest, or the next life cycle of growth.

The morning of the storm, when all was well in our gardens, I emailed a friend inquiring as to whether she had any produce to share at my city’s farmers market for our little Neighbor to Market stand. She responded that late evening letting me know she was wiped out by the hail. Then she said “I expect that with some time and lots of love, there will be plenty of offerings.” As I look below the chopped up foliage and leaves, I see that for some plants they had tented the baby growth below. Through that young growth, our garden will rebuild itself. But really…

Time and lots of love.  Isn’t that what everything needs to heal?

Back-to-School, Back-to-Love

photo 5

Morning routine drawn, happy pictures taken and my bright, beautiful 5-year old headed off for her first day of Kindergarten. As my husband said on repeat as we drove him to work immediately following “That was big. Whatever just happened was really big”. And he is right in bigger ways than either of us could have expressed on that short drive.

You have a baby and in those moments when you are at a loss, when they are inconsolable and you are beyond sleep deprived in some other orbit from the rest of the world, you find yourself longing for the first day of school when someone, anyone other than you, will be in their attendance for 8 hours at a time.

In many ways, I knew she wouldn’t cry or fuss on the first day. She was too darn excited. Four days earlier she actually had a meltdown because school had not started yet. Other than a ‘shy moment’ when we introduced ourselves to the school principal, she slid onto that blue kindergarten carpet without issue. Just a few feet away I was using all my effort to hold back the water in my eyes and kept wishing to drop my sunglasses on my face so as to not distract her with my own flooding emotions.

A lot has happened since she graduated from preschool a few months ago and the result has left her relatively unaware while I am still in recovery. It started when she had a seizure in May that lead to an ER visit. “Febrile seizures” they said, followed by: “Chances are she may never have another. Just make sure to reduce her fever when she is sick.”

We went home and life continued almost entirely unaltered other than a story to tell about the horror of watching your child go from simply sick to seizing followed by a hysterical ambulance ride and how touched we were by the supportive community that rose up to help us. We told the story from a place of relief– chances are she may never have one again. That phrase helped me sleep at night with her blissfully in the other room.

photo 4

But, that phrase was not for our family. Within a few weeks, she had another seizure. This time it was without a fever although that arrived a few hours later. Basically, instead of a fever indicating she may get a seizure, the seizure was the warning of a nasty bug that lasted over a week. Then she had another seizure in the middle of the night a few hours after we returned from the ER. That was how our summer began.

I was undone. Suddenly, my semi-lax parenting style that I felt allowed her plenty of space to grow and my lack of concern when she got sick hey- it helps build her immune system, right!? were tossed out the window. I felt hyper-aware of everything, completely on top of her and uncomfortable with myself much less our relationship.

The following weeks of summer followed suit as I spent more time with my children, yet in a state of anxiety and fear. Attempting to do whatever next thing I could think of to keep her from another seizure or to distract myself from the awful feeling inside. While she didn’t have another one during the summer, it was hardly because of my worry and stress.

Then we went on a trip. A big one for us. Two and a half weeks that involved flying across the country to drive up and down the East Coast. In the first eight days, we drove for six. Typically about 2-3 hours per day that we attempted to overlap with our toddler’s nap, but we started learning the hard lesson that small children aren’t nearly as motivated to sit blissfully looking out at scenery listening to self-help books on tape as we were. Our love of road-tripping that shaped our 20’s and early 30’s was vanishing fast.

Did I mention, throughout it I was an emotional mess? Everything felt big and wrong and icky. Tantrums from either child felt larger than I could bear. And every transition from car to house to car to hotel was more dramatic than it needed to be. I attempted to relax on the days that were ‘relaxing’ but threats to my children seemed all around. Watching my daughter in the pool, with her new love of putting her head underwater had me sitting on standby with eyes locked on her every twitch, ready to rescue her. I had never felt this way and suddenly my empathy for the helicopter parenting style soared. I was torturing myself.

At the end of our time in the Poconos, we planned one more trip around the lake on Great Grandpop’s Golf Cart that my children were obsessed with. My daughter ran into the cabin where I had been packing and said “Mama- we want YOU to drive the Golf Cart”. Half teasing, I said “Oh, I have never driven a Golf Cart before. Should I be nervous?”

Her wide eyes looked up at me and with a slight giggle she said:

“Mama, YOU can feel anyway you want.”

photo 2 (1)At that moment, I was no longer looking at my child, but rather an angel with a specific message. YOU CAN FEEL ANYWAY YOU WANT. I knew I wasn’t nervous about driving a Golf Cart, I was nervous something would happen to this sweet girl in front of me who was walking around with a piece of my heart inside of hers. Her words shot through my entire being and I suddenly felt willing to heal from our summer. Willing to feel something other than fear. I craved feeling the joy she clearly held and I finally let her love infect me.

That was the first step, opening up to feeling differently, feeling better. Then a couple of days later my husband and I had one of those ‘serious’ should we invest a chunk of change in my business or not conversations and somewhere in there it came out that I was blaming myself for our daughter’s seizures. That I couldn’t control them. That I failed to keep her safe.

As the words poured out, I didn’t realize the truth they had held deep within me. My husband grabbed me and said “It was not your fault.” over and over until I was a puddled of tears letting all the self-blame come spilling over.

The logical side of me knew that I didn’t cause her to be sick, much less cause her to seize. In the moment of each seizure I had risen to the occasion in the best way I could, pulled together and present for her shaking yet stiff body as I frantically whispered to her I am with you and please come back to me. Eventually, her body would crumble into my arms both of us defeated. Meanwhile, that ego-based creature deep within gnawing at my soul that wants to control everything, told me something false: I had failed my child. With my husband’s words, I felt the next step. I was starting to let go. It was not my fault. 

playing + building sandcastles

Playing + building sandcastles

Soon after our ‘big trip’ finally became a vacation as we found ourselves with toes deep in the sand, the sun drenching us as we played in the ocean or pool together. We experienced a place we never knew existed with inviting warm water, blindingly white beaches and the perfect balance of breeze. The rawness was slowly washing away and I found myself a layer deeper, somehow exfoliated by emotions that had spent the summer overwhelming me.

Returning home to the back-to-school countdown, I finally felt refreshed and ready to deal with whatever the new year has in store.

Will my daughter have a seizure again? Maybe. Maybe not.

Will she be in a school that will take care of her and will do their best for her if she has a seizure? Yes.

Will she get sick? Probably.

Will I blame myself? I hope not, because that will mean I once again am trying to control the uncontrollable.

photo 1 (1)

Letting the sun warm my sweet toddler and I as we sailed around.

Dropping my daughter at school that first day was very different than I anticipated just a few months ago. Our summer brought lessons of letting go, releasing self-blame and allowing love to win. I hope to remember these lessons throughout the next 13 years of her education, because as my sweet angel told me I can feel anyway I want.    

With Love,

Lilly

Summer Foods that Hydrate

summer hydration fruit and vegetables cherries
Please welcome guest blogger Stefanie Davis for another post on healthy summer eating! 

Summer is here with lots of fun in the sun to be had! Drinking plenty of water is essential to maintain health in this hot season. Water is essential as our primary source of hydration, but food can also be an enjoyable and delicious way to staying cool!  Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetable are available in abundance just waiting to be enjoyed and savored! (The health benefits of eating seasonally can be reviewed here.  Increasing your produce intake improves your body’s hydration and offers natural sugars and electrolytes that replenish your body with what it needs during times of heat and perspiration.

Here are 10 of some of the best foods to help beat the heat of Summer!
(Follow the link for RECIPES)
1. Cucumbers
2. Celery
3. Tomatoes
4. Cauliflower
5. Watermelon
6. Spinach
7. Strawberries
8. Carrots
9. Cherries
10. Radishes

Now go have more Summer fun with yummy hydrating recipes in tow! XO

SAsignature

stef

Hi there, I’m Stefanie from Simple Acres blog. I am a wife to a hard workin’ man, mommy to 3 “littles”, 10 year Registered Dietitian, writer, artist and hopeful inspirer! My passion is to bring the journey of simplicity to others through focusing on the things that really matter….the ones you love, the dreams you BELIEVE, and living in the moment with true JOY! As a RD I believe in  body love and acceptance, intuitive eating and savoring and nourishing the body with wholesome foods! I’m excited to be able to grace the pages of Lilly’s Table and look forward to joining you more as your new personal Dietitian! Please come visit me at Simple Acres and come to know me more personally on my facebook fan page, instagram and twitter! Dovidenia. XO

Declare Your Food Independence

foodwillwinthewar

Are you a patriot of the food revolution or a
loyalist to the Standard American Diet? 

Food Loyalist [food loiuh-list]
noun
1. a person who is loyala supporter of the sovereign or of the existing food system especially during this time of revolt.

Food Patriot [food pey-tree-uh t] 
noun
1.  a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her local food system and its delicious, sustainable interests with devotion.

As a nation, we have passively given our own diet to a very large system that no longer has our land, our families, our ideology, or even our health at heart.

Our craving to eat ‘right’ is often cleverly disguised by marketing that flashes claims of heart-healthy, fat-free, free-range, sugar-free, gluten-free or natural with very little nourishment or sustenance. This Standard American Diet (SAD) has been on the menu for decades and WE the people are the ones suffering with the growing list of diet related diseases, syndromes and deaths.

For years, I have felt the paradox of a holiday that celebrates our collective ability to stand up for what we believe in, meanwhile the ‘American’ food that shapes nearly every backyard party is some of the most suppressive, industrially processed food that we could possibly consume.

Hot dogs. Burgers. Buns. Sugar-laden ketchup. Trans-fat mayonnaise. And plastic tasting vegetables dipped in white mystery sauces.

Why do we celebrate our freedom with this type of ‘cuisine’? 

We are not to a point where the Standard American Diet is comprised of real food that nourishes us, that offers fair work to those who produce it, and that is grown within our own local economies. The SAD is not a sustainable food system that will protect us and our children into the future.

Passively consuming the SAD lifestyle should no longer feel like an option for you. It is time to rise up and be a Food Patriot, not a Loyalist. Vote with your food dollars. For every quarter you spend on local + real food, instead of corporate food products, you are sending a clear message that you are ready to embrace your own food freedom.

warusa025

I invite you to rebel against the S.A.D. I invite you to
celebrate food with truth! 

As we prepare to watch fireworks and celebrate the bravery of the Declaration of Independence, why not take a break from corporate food for one holiday?

Why not take a courageous stance against a food system that could care less if you lived, died or suffered from what you consume?

Take the 4th of July and claim your right to food that is made on our own land, more precisely on the land as close to you as possible.

Here are my four favorite dishes that are a perfect way to revolt against the food status quo

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries + Yogurt Ranch Dip
Grilled Potato Salad
Watermelon Salad
Pulled Pork Sliders

war-gardens-for-victory

In addition, here are FOUR ways to celebrate the 4th without the S.A.D. weighing you down: 

  • Shop at a Farmers Market this week! Gather whatever veggie goodness is available and toss it into a beautiful salad, skewer it on to kebabs or grill them whole to stack on to buns.
  • Want meat? Find a local butcher or rancher and see if they sell hot dogs, sausages, burgers or even big slabs of pork (perfect for the Pork Sliders mentioned above!)
  • Find a local bakery! Yes, the bill will most likely cost more than the $2 or less bags than the addictive white flour buns, but I have a feeling you will be in for a treat, especially if you find a new bakery to love in the future.
  • Dessert can be as simple as these Red, White + Blue Berry Necklaces (see photo below) or popsicles made from a puree of whatever local fruit you can find and pour it into the molds.
photo 2

Needle + thread bring together strawberries, cherries, blueberries + blackberries for a playful 4th of July dessert!

 

Simplify and defy the food of the 4th of July!

What is on your menu that will blow up the typical ‘American’ party food?

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Celebrate food,

Chef Lilly

Peaches n’ Chicken + Kombucha Cherry Green Beans for the Virtual Progressive Dinner

main dish lilly's table

We are over halfway through the Virtual Progressive Dinner and I hope you enjoyed the Seasonal Veg Head’s gorgeous drinks: Watermelon Rum Fizz and the Peach Cucumber Basil Infused Water.

After those opening drinks, Laughing Lemon Pie shared a luscious Ratatouille Crostini with Goat Cheese, which is the perfect bite of summer to tantalize our appetites.

Yesterday, Nourish Real Food presented her lovely Grilled Halloumi & Zucchini Salad. Check out this salad that serves perfectly as a salad course or main dish.

Today, I am going to share a simple dish with barely any ingredients, which means you will want to start with the highest quality chicken and the most delightful peaches or nectarines that you can find.

Chicken on the grill is quintessential summer. Add some grilled corn, a salad or more and you have the easiest summer cookout. This recipe adds just one simple layer of luscious flavor with one of my favorite fruits of the season.

In my Rocky Mountain state, we wait breathlessly for our Palisade Peaches that we claim are better than the famous Georgia peach. By no means is a contest required, but having nearly local access to the juiciest, packed with aroma stone fruit makes me pretty darn happy. Find the best stone fruit that you can for this dish. This may be peaches, nectarines or this time of year cherries are more likely.

Speaking of cherries! I made this simple dish that could happen on the grill or in the oven. My children actually ate three servings each! The sauce was insanely simple to blend up with a few ounces of kombucha (or substitute water + vinegar) a drizzle of honey and a small handful of cherries. Meanwhile, green beans were roasted after being tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then five minutes before they were done, I tossed the green beans with the sauce and even more cherries.

Seriously, my children were addicted and fought over the last few green beans much to our surprise.

Continue the Virtual Progressive Dinner on Friday, by tuning into Lynn with Order in the Kitchen as she presents a dessert that will take us throughout the entire summer.

 

peaches n' chickenPeaches n’ Chicken

Plan on about 3/4 pound of chicken including the bones and one peach per serving. Ask your butcher to help cut your chicken in half or simply buy your chicken in your favorite parts. 

1 Bone-in Chicken, cut in half + spine removed or your favorite pieces with the skin + bones still on
2-4 peaches, depending on the number of servings
1-2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat a grill on high until the griddle is piping hot. Cut the chicken in half, along either side of the spine if not already done by a butcher. The spine can always be used to make chicken broth. Alternatively, if the chicken is cut into pieces that works too.

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, creating a thin, even layer. Reduce the grill to medium-high heat. Place the seasoned chicken skin side down first on the grill for about 8-12 minutes until golden on the under side.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the peaches and place in a cast iron or another oven safe skillet or baking dish. Arrange them as the picture shows, slightly overlapping in a fan.

Flip the chicken over and sear on the other side for about 5-10 more minutes just until the chicken is seared and golden. It should not be cooked through the center yet. Place the chicken on top of the arranged peaches and return to the grill, covered. Alternatively, place in the oven set to about 350. When the chicken is about 170 degrees the dish is done cooking. Remove from the oven and cover with foil or a lid. Allow the chicken to continue to come up in temperature for about 5 minutes.

Serve the peaches + juice on top of the chicken.

Kombucha Cherry Green Beans

1 pound green beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound cherries
1/2 cup kombucha OR 1/4 cup vinegar + 1/4 cup water (red wine or apple cider vinegar are ideal)
1 teaspoon honey, or your preferred sweetener, more to taste, if desired
salt + pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375 or a grill over high heat. Trim the green beans on each end, toss with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and place in the oven or the grill for about 10-15 minutes until they start to become tender.

Meanwhile, place about 8 cherries in a blender with the kombucha or the vinegar + water. Blend up until smooth, drizzle in the honey, adding more to your desired taste. Add a pinch of salt + pepper.

Cut up the remaining cherries.

Once the green beans are nearly done, toss with the cherry sauce and the remaining cherry pieces. Place in the oven/grill and bake for 5-10 more minutes until the cherries are slightly tender and the sauce is starting to stick to the green beans.

Serve together as the main course!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well,

Chef Lilly

progressive dinner pic-2

Please note, Nourish Real Food and this main course switched days as I had a family emergency. Remember to check out all of the beautiful courses in the Progressive Dinner!

Spring into Summer with a Virtual Progressive Dinner!

progressive dinner pic

Progressive Dinners have always been on my list of fantasy parties. Seriously, I remember hearing about it as a kid and thinking now that would be fabulous way to dine + celebrate since you travel from house to house getting new food in each spot.

Since then I have been involved in a couple of wild progressive dinners. During one, my sister threw a huge Alice in Wonderland affair and I cooked for each mystery stop along the way. Wild Mushroom Dips and Figs Wrapped in Proscuitto drenched in Lemon-Honey are my memories of that costume shindig.

More recently I coordinated a city-wide Progressive Dinner for Tucson Food Day including stops at an urban farm featuring pecans, goat cheese & chiles, the main dish was at the local mercado where our Farmers Market is held and finally at a historic restaurant where we served dessert involving mesquite cookies & freshly gleaned fruit. The food was not only local, but much of it was native including tepary beans, Sonoran white wheat, chile peppers and more.

With my love of progressive dinners and a whole shiny new reason to celebrate, I thought why not do a progressive dinner… virtually!? That way YOU can participate no matter where you are located, because it is featuring four of my favorite bloggers throughout North America sharing dishes that revolve around my latest new offering on Lilly’s Table:

The Essential Summer Meal Plan Worksheet

This sparkly, easy to download, gift is a simple meal planning worksheet that guides you through brainstorming and  creating your meal plan for the week. It is how I do all of my family’s meal planning at home because it allows me to build our weekly food around:

  • the seasons
  • our favorite dishes
  • all the good food already in our kitchen waiting for new inspiration.
  • our crazy, ever-changing schedule
In addition, the Summer Meal Plan Worksheet will help you:
  • create batch dishes to store for future meals
  • schedule all the best timing for your dinners
  • plan the head chef for each meal (great way to involve the whole fam)
  • sit down to a blissful seasonal meal with your family on a daily basis

As an added treat, it is not only functional… it is pretty. Which means, you will be more likely to hang it up on your fridge as it accompanies you through your week of food.

Want it?! Simply sign up in the top right hand corner of this blog post where it says: Seasonal Bite.

Virtual Summer Progressive Dinner

Within the Summer Meal Plan Worksheet is a handy list of the Essential Summer Produce to guide you through all of the produce that I do not want you to miss before fall starts to cool us down. To celebrate all of the goodness on that list, I decided to get a little help from four of my favorite food bloggers.

Allow me to introduce you to our virtual hostesses for our Summer Progressive Dinner this week:

Whenever I have a party, as guests arrive I make sure they have something delightful in their hands whether they drink alcohol or not. Jaime of the Seasonal Veg Head will be starting us off with a sip of summer.

For the first official course, Lacy of Laughing Lemon Pie will be providing us with a dish that melts summer together into the perfect bite.

I will be providing the main dish, please join me here on Wednesday.

A salad from Sara of Nourished Real Food will delight you with its simplicity and ode to summer.

And finally, Lynn of Order in the Kitchen will bring us a dessert that you can make in several variations all season long.

Please visit each beautiful blog this week to see the recipe and dish they are sharing!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well,

Chef Lilly

 

photo 3

Sign up above for the Seasonal Bite newsletter to receive the Summer Meal Planning Worksheet download!

Creamy Grilled Peach Pasta Salad

grilled peach pasta overhead shot

This recipe is a mouthful of a name, but in reality it is just a toss of yogurt dressing, pasta, caramelized onions and my favorite fruit for grilling: peaches. I realize peach season is rapidly coming to a close, but this is the recipe to try when you have some funky sad looking peaches that need to be a bit more revived into some goodness.

This pasta salad came to existence when long time Lilly’s Table subscriber and uber-talented photographer Lynn Townsend did the best swap ever with me.

You see, last year, Santa decided I needed a new camera. While I fully understand that a camera does not make a good photographer, I was secretly hoping for dramatic improvements in my photos. Certainly in many ways the photos were getting better, but it became clear I needed someone to hold my hand a bit more as this camera was a lot to figure out.

Earlier last year, Lynn photographed our darling sweet boy as an infant and us, too. Recently, I asked if she would be interested in a cooking lesson in exchange for a photography lesson, she did not hesitate to say yes.

It was such fun! We started by caramelizing onions. Then we made Socca (a recipe I promise will be coming sooner rather than later). And we made these Zucchini Meatball Skewers. Juliette came and assisted with the yogurt dressing for the pasta salad. Then we grilled up the peaches. I hope Lynn picked up a few tricks, because she was so generous with all that she shared with me including a handy-dandy list of notes that I am keeping in my kitchen for reminders.

zucchini meatball skewers

It also made me realize how I really could use a few extra hands to manage making dinner, photographing dishes, setting the table, bouncing light, figuring out the shadows and more. With any luck, I might be able to start training the four year old to be my photography assistant. 😉

At least this pasta salad is simple enough. It is recipes such as these that keep my family happy and my sanity in check. Lately, I have had a rule goal of starting dinner by 3pm. I realize this isn’t possible for everyone, but if you have a babe on your hip as I usually do, starting a “30-minute meal” 3 hours ahead is my best advice. Distractions are reality. When I plan for them I am a bit less crazy.

In the case of this recipe, I caramelize the onions while doing the morning/lunch dishes. Whip up the dressing and store it in the serving bowl in the fridge until close to dinner. Boiling the pasta and grilling the peaches can happen ahead as well, but since those take about 15 minutes or less I usually just do them right before dinner.

What 30-minute dinners do you like to make over the course of the day?

grilled peach close up

Creamy Grilled Peach Pasta Salad
(Serves about 4)

1 onion, minced fine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, or lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup greek yogurt, plain
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pasta, such as rotini, penne, whatever is a bit compact & makes you happy
2 peaches, cut in half and pit removed
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup feta crumbled (or your favorite nuts, such as walnuts or sliced almonds)

Place the minced onions in a dry skillet over medium heat. Once the onions are sizzling and just barely starting to stick to the pan, reduce the heat to low and add a splash of water. Let the onions continue to cook, tossing occasionally until they start to attain a slightly golden color. Once they appear evenly and lightly golden, add a splash of olive oil and sizzle for a few more minutes. Caramelizing the onions can take a while, so start it and then prepare the other ingredients alongside, just checking on the onions as needed. (Alternatively, see my advice above for making this in parts throughout the day!) Lower the heat if the they appear to get too crispy and add a splash of water as needed if they are sticking too much.

Meanwhile, place a big ol’ pot of water on the stove to boil.

In the salad bowl, add the dijon, white wine vinegar, honey and greek yogurt. Whisk it altogether. Continue whisking and slowly drizzle, drop by drop, half of the olive oil until the dressing is thick and luscious and evenly combined. Season with a couple of pinches of salt until it tastes delicious.

Pour the dry pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the package directions usually about 6-10 minutes until the pasta is el dente.

Meanwhile, heat up your grill pan on high or your oven at about 400. Pour the remaining olive oil in a shallow bowl. Dip the peaches into the oil and coat on both sides. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on each side, too.

To Grill: Reduce the grill heat to medium-high heat. Sear the peaches on the cut side down for about 5-8 minutes until marks appear. Reduce the heat if the peaches are searing too quickly. Flip over and sear on the round side until the bottoms are just a bit dark and the peaches are sizzling.

Oven: Spread the peaches on a baking sheet and roast for about 10-15 minutes until the edges are getting a bit of color and they are slightly sizzling. You can flip them over half way through, but if you forget, no worries.

Drain the pasta once it is the perfect el dente texture and shake it dry. You can leave it warm (my preference) or cool it down if desired. Toss the pasta in the dressing until it is evenly coated.

Roughly chop the peaches and add to the dressed & coated pasta. Add the feta or nuts and the basil. Fold everything together very gently.

It will store for a week or more… but most likely you will gobble it up sooner!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Celebrate food,

Chef Lilly

Lilly’s Table turns Four!

photo-166

Juliette is holding up four fingers celebrating four years!

Midnight September 5th, 2010, our four-month old daughter was thankfully asleep as my husband and I poured small glasses of champagne to toast the first live meal plan of Lilly’s Table. The journey to get to that point was an eye-opening experience and since then there have been many more crazy adventures. I just took a peak at that first weekly meal plan and tried not to cringe, instead I forgave myself for all that I did not know and for everything that was still undone.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 1.49.44 PM

The First Week of Lilly’s Table!

For those of you who have not been with me since that exciting day, let me give you a quick sum up of all that has happened since. My husband graduated with a PhD in Physics, accepted a job at the University of Arizona, we moved to Tucson, my daughter and I began to meet wonderful neighbors and then I discovered the national Food Day. Next thing I knew, I signed up to coordinate Food Day there, which included a three course progressive dinner along the Santa Cruz River (which by the way only flows occasionally during monsoon season).

After the excitement of that first Food Day, I started teaching cooking classes to daycare providers through the Tucson Community Food Bank’s Farm-to-Child program and then signed up to do another year of Food Day. For our second year, the incredible Food Day community decided one event on one day wasn’t enough and so we developed Tucson Food Week which included festivals, classes, and a pop-up picnic.

IMG_8213

I am on the mic, chatting to our first Tucson Food Day crowd as they eat dessert.

Then I became pregnant. I appeared on local TV to talk about the 2012 Tucson Food Week while doing my best to hide morning sickness… which doesn’t feel terribly different from being nervous in front of a camera apparently. 😉 I also followed up with a spot on the local Radio station KXCI, where I spoke not only about Food Week, but Lilly’s Table. It was awesome.

With the end of 2012 came news of another move, fortunately back to Colorado. I had fallen madly in love with Tucson, but was blissful to come back to the open arms of friends with plenty of kids just about the same age as ours. In an unexpected turn, we bought a home in a tiny town and a few week’s later welcomed our baby boy.

I have been close to my children and my computer since that move well over a year ago. I try not to feel exhausted just writing about all of this. Rather, I want to feel excited knowing that midnight toast with my husband, that tiny sip of champagne was the first of so many possibilities. The meal planning service hasn’t quite grown into it’s full potential. Although, I am tempted to argue I was a bit distracted: community events and babies clearly need a bit of assistance. But, what I put in to my children and the community of Tucson I receive exponentially back in love, appreciation and my own growth.

Regardless of whether Lilly’s Table has grown, I am incredibly grateful for every single member. And throughout all of the drama and distractions I remained ever faithful to the weekly meal plan and I have never missed a week. I cannot say the same about this blog and my supposed-to-be weekly newsletter, but it is my hope to add more to the schedule that resonates even deeper with you as a reader.

Which means…. I want to talk to YOU!

One of my greatest lessons from Tucson Food Day was discovering that community and celebration are essential. There are so many food organizations, farms, restaurants and more doing amazing work. Our mission during Food Day was to bring them altogether to celebrate. To high five and celebrate how we are the change we wish to see in the food world.

It is my mission to continue that. It is my mission to empower the celebration of food. I am now on the hunt, exploring ways to bring joy and good food to every table.

I started one of my first small missions just last week, where I conducted my first Tasting Party. A group of Mamas gathered to taste delights from LT, but more importantly to talk about the trials & triumphs of nourishing our families.

Because here is the deal, even with four years under my belt as an ‘Executive Meal Planner’ and an ‘Executive Mama’, I typically feel I have no idea what the hell I am doing. Not because I am failing miserable, but because there are constant surprises, changes, growth, struggles and most of all… POSSIBILITIES.

That last word has been breathing in and out of me almost daily since moving back to Colorado. Life is brimming over with possibilities… most of which I do not know or understand yet.

So, back to today. Please be a part of the next four years of Lilly’s Table. My heart is exploding with all that could happen, but I need to hear from you. What do you want from me?

More stories?
More recipes?
More tasting parties?
More supper clubs?
Mama focused meal plans?
Kid’s lunch plans?
So. Many. Possibilities!

How can I best EMPOWER you, your family, your friends, your school to CELEBRATE FOOD?

Tell me what you hope to see unfold and I will do my best to deliver. All we have left friends are possibilities and love. Always love.

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Celebrate food,

Chef Lilly

PS- As of LT’s fourth anniversary I have decided to change my tagline from “Live well” to “Celebrate food”. Let me know what you think!?