I have a confession to make… I’m not exactly in love with summer. I grew up a hot-natured child in the sticky, sweltering South. Summertime found me occasionally (ok, often) grouchy when the temperatures climbed into the upper 90s and 100+, simmering for weeks at a time, drenched in humidity. I have fond memories of walking into my grandparents’ house after playing outdoors and standing in front of the air conditioning unit for a solid ten minutes, inhaling as much icy air as my lungs would hold and dreaming of snow.
Unfortunately, I’m still one to gripe about the heat when it gets really bad, but I’ve gotten much better. I’ve finally learned to focus on the positive and treasure the summer months for the bounty of fresh produce. The Southern girl in me lives for tomato sandwich season. I grew up climbing peach trees and making homemade peach ice cream. I can eat cherries by the pound without coming up for air. On hotter days I start to fantasize about autumn – but then I remember that by then, there will be no more lush, ripe tomatoes, stone fruit dripping with juice, or farmers’ markets overflowing with zucchini and eggplant. I think living in New England really puts seasons into perspective. Besides the summer being much more merciful here, it’s short-lived and long-awaited. That means I have a lot of things to cook before it’s gone!
These two recipes are sweet celebrations of summer – light, healthy, verdant, bursting with flavor.
Spinach Salad with Fresh Cherries + Toasted Almonds + Goat Cheese
This simple summer salad is as beautiful and as easy as it gets. Crunchy, juicy, savory, sweet. Enjoy.
Makes one serving, easily multiplied.
1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach, washed
Handful of cherries, pitted and halved
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Simple balsamic vinaigrette (use your favorite ratio)
You know what to do!
“Island” Granola with Coconut + Almonds + Mango
If you haven’t made homemade granola yet, what are you waiting for? Maybe you have some misconceptions about it. Granola is an expensive “health food” product sold in the “natural” aisle of the supermarket. It can’t be easily whipped up in your own kitchen, right? Wrong. It’s easy, cheap, healthy, and delicious. Packaged granola is pricey and typically full of sugar and fat. Control your sugar intake and your budget by simply going homemade. I’ve only made my own granola once or twice, but after making it several times at work recently (for 250 kids!) I remembered just how much I love it. Believe me, if I can single-handedly make 250 snacks in less than 30 minutes, you can make enough for your own household.
This fruity granola hints at tropical vacations and crystal clear waters. If you’re like me and lack AC, wait for an evening or cooler day to turn on the oven. In Boston, we were lucky enough to get a huge thunderstorm yesterday that swept out the sticky heat. Alternatively, make this in winter when you’re missing the warmth!
Makes about 5 cups of granola.
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup local honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
6 oz dried mango, chopped (unsweetened, if possible – if not, use less honey)
1 tbsp flax seeds (optional)
*If you want extra crunchy, clumpy granola, add an egg white. I avoid using egg whites because it’s hard to find a use for an extra yolk and I hate to waste.
- Preheat oven to 325°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. If your oven will fit two, go ahead and prepare two – I had to work in batches.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, almonds, flax seeds, ginger and salt.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, vanilla and egg white if using. Fold into oat mixture and coat evenly.
- Spread granola in a thin, even layer on the prepared baking sheet. This is important! If it’s not spread out thinly, it will not get crunchy.
- Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, for about 15-20 minutes until golden-brown and starting to crisp. Allow to cool on the pan for several minutes before transferring to a large mixing bowl. Granola gets crunchier as it cools.
- Add in coconut and chopped mango. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks (if it lasts that long!)