Tag Archives: summer

End-of-Summer Checklist

Image by Renee Alfonso

In the United States the Labor day weekend marks the beginning of the fall season and the end of summer. While this new beginning and seasonal close might not be meteorological in nature, after next weekend it will be safe to say that many people will be putting away their white pants until next year.

That said however, this summer practically flew by for me, and several people I have spoken with also agree that this year the season was as quick as it was hot. It like it was just a few days ago I was making my list of things to do and see during the summer months. I admit that I always overpopulate my to-do lists with tasks, so not everything was accomplished this year, but the rest of the unfinished items I have will definitely be put aside for next year. Here’s a last few summer-y ideas to set aside and revisit.

1. Go to a Beach

Image by Renee Alfonso

Growing up in a tropical country, summer always meant extended beach trips (I say extended because the beach was a destination all year round) and exploring new places to catch some sun and waves. This year I visited one of the US’s East Coast beaches, Rehoboth Beach, in Delaware. I’d like to visit more beaches next year to see the variety of culture in each of the coastal towns and cities.

Sand-sculpture at Rehoboth Beach. Image by Renee Alfonso.

2. Experience a music festival or outdoor concert (or a few)

Image by Flickr user Kenami.

Since the 1960’s, music festivals have been an expression of the free-spirited ways of the youth in the summertime. These days most music festivals are highly organized and conveniently accessible, but still allow you to have that feeling of sweet liberation and escape from urban life. If I have the chance to next year, I’d like to go see the Firefly festival in Delaware, as well as the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

Image from NPR All Songs Considered Flickr

3. Have an outdoor barbeque

Image by Renee Alfonso

There’s still time to do this yet! I attended a couple of barbeques this year, and they were both great chances to meet people as well as catch up with old friends in a relaxed and laid back setting. Since both instances they were held at the hosts’ homes, it was also a good opportunity to swap and learn a few delicious recipes!

4. Plan a creative trip or getaway

Squam Art Workshops, image by Flickr user hodgepodgefarm.

For some time, the idea of a trip or travel with something more than just tourism has been taking root in the creative community. Instead of simply traveling and exploring a new place, there are several packaged travel deals where you get the chance to broaden your horizons as well as develop some kind of creative or physical skill. Sometime in my life I’d love to take part in the Legacy of Letters tour and workshop in Italy, to learn more about history of typography and type design.

Image from Felt & Wire

The fall season usually means adding more to the to-do list, but hopefully this list will serve as some good motivation through the (coming) colder months!

Posted in Culture, Travel | Tagged

Tasty Tomatoes

As much as I love tomato-based sauces, I have never really enjoyed the raw fruit. It’s a texture thing; I’m just not a fan of the squishy insides. And let’s face it- most tomatoes are tasteless and mealy, having “ripened” on their long journey in refrigerator trucks.

(Farm to Fork BBT Sandwich; Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

The exception is at the height of summer when fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are available. At this time of year I overcome my textural bias and enjoy the overwhelming sweetness that these gorgeous globes provide. Case in point: the awesome bacon, basil, and tomato sandwich prepared by Farm to Fork Catering at my local farmers market two weeks ago. See that large slice of golden yellow tomato? It was the sweetest, most delicious tomato I have ever eaten, contrasting perfectly with the salty bacon, the bright basil, and a creamy herb-laced mayonnaise.

(Hazelfield Farm Tomatoes; Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

I couldn’t get that sandwich out of my head. I posted a picture on my Facebook page, I dreamt about it and, this past weekend, I ordered another one. It was just as good as the first.  Inspired, I hunted down some tomatoes to take home and enjoy. I came across these baby heirloom varieties grown by Hazelfield Farm and I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

(Jamie Oliver; Photo: Daily Mail via Grace in Full Measure)

Several years ago, I watched Jamie Oliver prepare a simple dish of sausages roasted with cherry tomatoes in his wood burning oven. It was so easy and looked so scrumptious that my husband and I recreated it at the cottage, substituting our barbecue for his fancy oven. It was the perfect meal and our guests raved about it. I really don’t know why I haven’t made it since.

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

But, with my pint of tomatoes in hand, I knew that it was time to recreate this delightful dish. Recipe junkies can see his printed version here, but I prefer the simplified, slap-dash version from Oliver’s live demonstration:

1-2 Italian sausages per person (hot, mild, or a mix)

1 large handful of cherry tomatoes per person (I really like a mixture of heirloom varieties)

Fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, and basil work well)

Fresh garlic cloves

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Because this is such a simple recipe, use the best and freshest ingredients you can find. Bust out the expensive oil and vinegar if you have them. I grabbed some thyme and basil from Hazelfield Farm and plump Italian sausage from Brooks Meats.

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Because I wanted the sausages to cook through, I browned them for a few minutes on each side while I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees. Then I simply tossed the tomatoes and sausage with enough oil to coat, added a splash of balsamic vinegar (go easy on this if your fruit is really sweet), and liberally seasoned everything with salt and pepper. I spread the mixture in a cast iron skillet (pick a pan that your ingredients will cover the bottom completely in one single layer) and topped with sprigs of fresh thyme. In my haste, I totally forgot the garlic cloves but these would be peeled and tossed in here as well.

(Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

Cook for 30 minutes, turning the sausage and pressing gently on the tomatoes (watch out for the hot juice) half-way through. I like to top it with a chiffonade of fresh basil and serve it with a simple salad and lots of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the sauce. This recipe works equally well in an oven, barbecue, or even a campfire. If there are leftovers (and that’s a big if), they make a great sandwich filling or pasta sauce. Enjoy!

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The Summer BBQ

Pizza made on the BBQ courtesy Dima's Kitchen

Pizza made on the BBQ courtesy Dima's Kitchen

Ugh it’s hot here.  Hotter than hot, and hotter than any summer I can remember.  We live in a century old building, on the top floor with no central air.  We have window air conditioners in the primary rooms and they do the trick but there’s no way, no how they could keep up with the oven on top of the already sweltering temperatures.  So bless the barbecue. It’s cold salads and fresh fruit and if we must eat something cooked, it’s barbecued, outside, by my other half. What could be better?

Here are a few favourite less ordinary things I like to grill:


peaches on the BBQImage via Wellness Made Natural

Figs, Pineapple and Peach SkewersImage via Yum Sugar

Grilled fruit is absolutely perfect totally naked for breakfast (I did mean the fruit, but that could work too).  The simplicity of grilled fruit is what’s really fantastic here: in about 3 minutes of cooking time,  the grill really teases out the flavours, especially sweetness (toss them first in some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, or vegetable oil, honey and fresh mint before they hit the grill) .  Other ideas include adding grilled fruit as the oomph factor to salads and, most obviously, as the perfect way to end a meal.  Dressed with ice cream or chocolate, grilled peaches are a to-die-for dessert.


Individual pizzas made on the barbecueImage via Serious Eats

I must admit I was late to the game re: grilling pizza.  I actually am not a huge pizza fan, what with my dairy allergy and all.  But I have tried pizzas made on the barbecue and I must admit the texture of the crust is pretty amazing.  Click here and here for  some great primers for those of you who are feeling adventurous tonight.


Salmon grilled on a cedar plankImage via Leite’s Culinaria

grilled calamariImage via Picnic Food Ideas

shrimp skewers for the BBQImage via Closet Cooking

While totally delicious, barbecuing for us so often means hamburgers, portobello “burgers” and mixed veggie skewers.  But seafood is incredible grilled and really isn’t much more work than preparing homemade burgers.  In fact in the case of fish done on cedar planks or shrimp skewers, very little could be easier.

Here’s our easy peasy shrimp recipe:

1. Cheat and buy a bag of frozen large, raw, deveined and peeled shrimp

2. Toss these in a resealable plastic bag with some olive oil, salt, the juice of a lemon and lime, a couple finely minced cloves of garlic, and black pepper.  Let this mixture marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours in the fridge.

3. When you’re ready to fire up the BBQ, just put these on skewers and cook on the grill for 3-4 minutes on each side till they turn pink and are no longer translucent on the inside.

(Hint: if you’re using wooden skewers rather than metal, be sure to soak these in water for about an hour before use.  This will help ensure they don’t go up in smoke.)

Happy Grilling!

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Cooling Down With Cold Noodles

Image from World Foodie Guide

Summers in DC are particularly warm for the northeast of the US, but this year has been hotter than usual. People have been trying to find ways to stay cool, from taking a break to go to the beach, pool, or cool down with an icy drink.

Image via The Christian Home Keeper

Noodles are a common standard in most East Asian cuisine, and the summer season brings about a variety of noodle dishes that can be served cold. Cold noodles are common in countries such as Japan and Korea, and there are a number of dishes that are easy to prepare and refreshing on a hot sultry evening.


Soumen noodles

Image from Food Librarian

Soumen are thin white noodles made from wheat flour. They resemble udon noodles in consistency and texture, but resemble angel hair pasta in size. They are usually served with a dipping sauce made from a fish based soup stock, garnished with spring onions, ground ginger, and daikon. It is common to eat soumen with tempura, deep fried battered vegetables and seafood.

Hiyashi Chuuka

Image from Japan Centre

Much like Ramen, Hiyashi Chuuka is a Japanese take on a dish made with chinese-style egg noodles. In this dish, the noodles are marinated in a cold sauce and served in a shallow plate, with a variety of toppings on them, The toppings vary depending on who makes the dish, but most of the time include thinly sliced vegetables like cucumber and carrots, thinly sliced pork, and hard boiled egg.

Zaru Soba

Image from Globetrotter Diaries

Soba is probably of the most well-known types of Japanese noodle, along with udon, that can be served either hot or cold, depending on the season. The noodles are made from buckwheat flour, which gives them their unique consistency and aroma. Zaru soba are soba noodles served cold, on a bamboo-slat tray from which the noodles get their name. They are usually topped with  shredded nori seaweed, eaten with a dipping sauce similar to soumen.


Image from Dolsot Bibimbap

Korea has their own variant of cold noodles as well, known as Naengmyeon. It resembles soba in consitency and color, but is served simmered in an icy broth with some toppings such as cucumbers and korean pear. Depending on the regional taste, it can also be served spicy and seasame oil is usually added to taste.

The great thing about cold noodles is that preparation time is usually minimal, and very easy. They keep fairly well, too, but are of course best eaten fresh. Most asian supermarkets or grocery stores that sell asian products carry a variety of the noodles and their sauces.

Cold noodle dishes are easily customisable and easily prepared. So if you’re feeling a little fatigued from the relentless heat this season, try cooling down with some noodles!

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Gone Glamping

When summer comes, many Canadians are inspired to leave the city and get reacquainted with nature. For the majority of us, this probably means a trip to the cottage but those looking for a more rustic and “authentic” experience go camping.

Outdoor canopied bed allows you to enjoy nature and a comfortable sleep(Photo: Luxury Vacation Source)

I must admit, I love the idea of camping more than the actual practice. I’m happy to be out in the woods and I relish the opportunity to take a break from television and the internet but I miss my comfy bed and real toilets.

Glamping Tent at Fireside Resort at Jackson Hole Campgrounds(Photo: Fireside Resort at Jackson Hole Campground)

Thankfully, enterprising individuals have discovered that many people feel this way and created what is known as glamourous camping, frequently referred to as “glamping.” Sites like Go Glamping and Glamping Girl advertise resorts around the world that boast lavishly appointed tents and campers in which you can spend your nature vacation.

SUJAN Luxury HotelsSujan Luxury Hotels outdoor dining experience(Photos: SUJÁN Luxury Hotels)

If you enjoy the idea of luxurious living in the great outdoors but want to avoid communing with strangers, there are many options for a personal glamping experience.

The Bubble Tent(Photo: Daily Mail)

Putting the mod in mod cons is the Bubble Tent. The sphere is air-conditioned and large enough to fit a king size bed or any other furniture you might require in the wilderness. The front door locks to protect your belongings but you will have to pick a private campsite to avoid prying eyes, as I’m sure anyone who came across this would want to peek inside the see-through walls!

The Opera Camping Vehicle(Photo: Been Seen)

The Dutch company YSIN developed the Opera in 2006 as an affordable option for campers interested in comfort. It looks like a typical trailer until it is unfolded and the graceful canvas roof is revealed. If you haven’t already guessed, this model’s name is taken from the Sydney Opera House which inspired its design.

The Opera, an inside look(Photo: Been Seen)

While small, this unit is completely tricked out with all the necessary amenities. There is a bed that can be set up as two singles or a double. The small kitchen has a refrigerator and sink (there is also an outdoor grill and prep station included). The bathroom features a toilet and a sink with a handle that pulls out to provide an outdoor shower. While not as luxurious as some of the glamping resorts, the manufacturers of the Opera have included upgraded finishes including teak flooring. I think I could be quite comfortable in this!

Dining room at the Clayoquot WIlderness Resort(Photo: Clayoquot Wilderness Resort)

The next time I head out into the wild, I’m not going to be roughing it- I’m going glamping!

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