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July 17, 2018

Cocktail of the Summer | Aperol Spritz

The Spritz

This became my favorite cocktail after seeing it in the Barefoot Contessa's Cooking for Jeffery Book a couple of years ago.  It is a fresh, crisp, not too sweet, not too strong, citrusy Italian cocktail.  I feel like I have to document it on the blog because it has become a sort of legend amongst our friends this summer.

Our friends who lived in Italy for a couple of years served them at their annual Masters Party this year.  Even (especially!) the guys are going crazy for the Spritz.  Then we went to Vail with the same group of friends for a wedding - the Spritz became the official drink of the wedding.  It is the perfect drink for an afternoon cocktail and so refreshing on a hot day/evening.  Now, they've become a staple for all of us at the pool, during a round of golf and before (and after!) dinner.  We're hooked!

There is a bit of controversy amongst us on what is the best recipe.  The guys tend to like it a bit stronger (more Aperol, splash of soda), while the ladies tend to like it in 3rds.  You really can't go wrong, but I've shared my favorite tips below.

The are so simple to make at home and perfect for a party.

 The (Aperol) Spritz

1 part aperol
1 part prosecco
1 part (or splash) club soda
orange slice
lots of ice

*Olives are so essential!  They are one of my favorite parts of the drink.  It might sound odd for sort of a fruity drink, but it really isn't that fruity... Trust me - olives.

My Favorite Cheese Board | Easy Appetizer

When I'm having some girlfriends over for a drink before dinner, or maybe we're having an afternoon playdate this has been my go-to snack.  It is a little different than a typical cheese board - a little more simple.  It is homemade parmesan biscuits (Barefoot Contessa), shards of white cheddar (also very Barefoot Contessa), blue berries and Boursin covered in honey (so good!).  

I present them all of a big pine Bread Board to make it feel rustic and casual.  It is a very help yourself sort of presentation.  This large board is part of a Set of 3 Aged Pine Bread Boards in my store - they've just been restocked.  

I have the boards all over my house - not only in the kitchen, but also in my mudroom.  I use them for staging photos for the store, a tray for drinks and, of course, cheese boards.

When we moved into our kitchen, it felt very brand new (which was great) and I wanted to give it a little bit of rustic aged charm.  Just putting these boards leaning on the wall of the baking counter was the perfect solution.  Instant patina.  

The Parmesan Crackers are a favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe.  You can make them in advance and keep them in the freezer.  You make the dough into a log, then slice it off for baking.  They are so tender, salty and crumbly.

I bake the crackers on a Large Baking Sheet ($10) lined with Parchment Paper ($10 for 100).  It is naturally non-stick + no clean-up.

This is sort of a hack/shortcut recipe - it is soooo good.  I first had it at a tennis match.  We usually play tennis then stay after for drinks and nibbles.  A friend brought this one night and we all went crazy.  You literally just pour honey over Boursin.  It is delish with the parmesan crackers.

With a cocktail, there is nothing better than a really great piece of cheese.  I use a pairing knife to create little chunks of the cheese.  The rough texture seems to add to the yumminess.  


Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce for Pasta | Gardening

Emma and I spent the day at The School House on Sunday making fresh tomato sauce.  I had made some last weekend for dinner with Mike's parents and it was so delicious, I decided to make a huge batch while real summer tomatoes were plentiful.

In Lexington there are so many farmstands that have wonderful (inexpensive!) local produce.  The garden at The School House is still a couple of weeks or so away from having "plentiful" tomatoes, but we are picking several baskets full of cherry tomatoes right now and we did pick our very first big tomato this week.  Soooo, I guess I'll be doing this all over again in August with the tomatoes from our own garden from the 16 plants we have (yikes!).

For this large batch, I used all of these 12 large tomatoes + 4 onions + 3 sticks of butter.   It made 7 x 8oz. containers (Plastic Kitchen Container Sets, 18 for $8 here) of sauce to put in the freezer or give away.  

We especially like this sauce with large rigatoni.  After cooking the pasta, I place the rigatoni directly in with the sauce and let it cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing it to soak up the sauce.  I served it with Pesto Grilled Chicken topped with melty fresh mozzarella and it was the best meal we've had all summer.

Getting photobombed while I was taking these photos.  

Eating chips and dip, of course!

I bought a "real" seeded large watermelon.  I don't think Emma had ever seen real watermelon seeds...

These tomatoes came from our garden.  I'll share some more photos and the plans for the School House garden soon.  The extreme heat and lack of rain has done a number on the grass, so it isn't the prettiest for photos.  But, I'm still developing the longterm plan that I'll share soon.

Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce
We made a triple batch of this recipe.

4 large tomatoes
1 large onion
1 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of sea salt

Dice two of the large tomatoes and put them in a large saucepan.    Chop the other tomatoes into large pieces and blend them until pureed.  Pour them into the saucepan.

Peel the onion and cut in half.  Place it in the saucepan and add the butter.

Cook on medium until bubbling, then reduce to low to simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom.

Let cool, then scoop out onions.  Pour into freezer containers or serve with pasta.

Half of the tomatoes were diced like this and went straight into the large sauce pot.

The other half of the tomatoes went into a blender and were blended completely - skins, seeds and all.

I poured the pureed tomatoes in with the diced tomatoes + butter + large onions peeled and cut in half.  It cooked for about 2 hours on a medium-low simmer.

After it had reduced and cooked for 2 hours, I let it cool on the stove for another hour, then used a large slotted spoon to pull out the onion pieces.  I separated the onion pieces into another bowl, then put them in a freezer bag.  I think they'll be great for chili in the fall.

I spooned the sauce into 8 oz. Plastic Kitchen Containers.  I put all of the containers on a Large Sheet Pan, then put them in the fridge to cool completely before I put the lids on.

I labeled them "Summer Tomato Sauce 7.15.18" and got them read for giving and freezing.

And, of course I forgot to take a final photo of them with their lids and labels on.

Here is my favorite meatball recipe below, along with our other favorite tomato sauce made from canned tomatoes.  It is based on this same super simple recipe and hands-down THE BEST sauce.  Our family is obsessed!

Easy Homemade Meatball Recipe >

I make these with 3-4 pounds of ground beef at a time and keep them in the freezer.  These + tomato sauce from the freezer makes the best quick comforting dinner - a Sunday tradition at our house.

 Our Favorite Spaghetti Sauce Recipe >

So fresh summer tomato sauce is our favorite, but every other time of the year this sauce using canned tomatoes is so, so good.  Made with just canned tomatoes, butter and onion - so simple and delish.

July 11, 2018

Perfect BLTs | Summer Lunch at The School House

Emma and I treated the girls to lunch this week at The School House.  I really like simple food in the summer so BLTs were the perfect lunch for a super hot July day.  The School House has been open for 3 months now, so it was a good time to catch up with the team to get some feedback from them.  They have done such an amazing job taking over the packaging and fulfillment and teaching themselves the business.  We have very few packaging errors (and when one or two pops up - they take it so personally!) and they really do take pride in making sure each package is beautifully assembled.  I LOVE how well they take care of my customers.  

Read more about The School House, here >

The School House is in my hometown of Lexington, Missouri.  It is about an hour from my house, so try to get there once every couple of weeks.

When we do, we always stop by the local farmstands to see what's in season.  Our favorite is my cousin's - Fahrmeier Farms.  They have strawberries early summer, and now they have blackberries and tomatoes.  In the fall, they have beautiful pumpkins and family activities.

When I shared our berries on Instagram, I had so many of you ask where we'd found them, so I thought I'd share : )

9133 County Farm Rd
Lexington, Missouri
(816) 289-2496

Of course, there is no need for a recipe for BLTs... but using the right ingredients is important.  I hardly ever order one at a restaurant unless I know they know what they're doing.  Same with caprese salads.  They can be great or terrible.

Good Bread : I used brioche from Whole Foods.  It was my first time buying it there and OMG - I don't know if I'll ever be able to use any other bread again.  So delish.  Buttery, soft.  

Good Tomatoes : Real tomatoes.  When you slice them you shouldn't see a "wagon wheel" shape, but fleshy and red all the way through.  They don't have to be heirloom, but usually the 'home grown' label is good enough.  I've found now that some "heirloom" have been farmed to look right, but don't even taste great.  I salt them with sea salt before putting on the sandwich. 

Lettuce : Soft lettuce.  I don't like romaine or iceburg on a BLT, but a soft lettuce like butter or this red leaf. 

(Do I sound crazy yet?!)

Bacon : Has to be crispy.  If there is any chewy aspect, I'm out.


Whole Foods Brioche

I can't wait to make French bread with this... not that there is any left.

See the flesh all the way through?  Wagon Wheel tomatoes (not these) were hybridized to ship and transport well without getting squashed.  So, the made them firm and hard... instead of juicy and delicate like these.

I bake bacon on a baking sheet with parchment paper for 20 minutes at 375.   You can find baking sheets and parchment, here >

This is my favorite pasta salad - Barefoot Contessa's Pesto, Pasta & Peas.  If you have pesto in the fridge (like I do in the summer, here is my recipe), then it is super easy to make.   I've simplified the recipe to be simply : Bowtie Pasta, Pesto, Thawed Sweet Baby Peas & Parmesean.  

Blackberries from Fahrmeiers Farm.

There are a couple more weeks of blackberry picking, then tomato season will be in full swing.  They would love for you to come visit!  One of these days (maybe Fall?), we'll have an open house at The School House and you can stop by at both (we're just down the road).

9133 County Farm Rd
Lexington, Missouri
(816) 289-2496

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