Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Notebook

Summer Notebook

I've been waiting and waiting for warmer days, and they're finally here, tempting my senses: humming lawn mowers, the oniony smell of fresh-cut grass, fireflies blinking in a dusky field, a screen door clapping shut, sunlight pushing against the top of my head.

It's the season for flip-flops, straw hats, picnics, ice cream, overflowing gardens, gazpacho, key lime pie, and ice tinkling in a frosty glass of sweet tea. 

The long daylight hours are a gift. 

Our summer guide is Minnie-Pause the Scarecrow.

Minnie Pause is a fashionista.

Come along as Minnie and I look back at a few favorite summer recipes and ideas and memories. 

 No-Cook Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream

 1 pint heavy cream
1 pint half-and-half
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground lavender buds
food coloring, if desired
Whisk ingredients and pour into an electric ice cream maker.

It took forever and ever for the mixture to solidify,
but it was worth it.

If you live in North Carolina, you may recognize this charming restaurant and inn--The Fearington House. It's a little piece of heaven year-round, but it's specially delightful in summer. I was there a few years ago with my eldest son and his beautiful family. Lovely summertime memories!

My sweet, little grand, Annabel.

And we're back in Tennessee, savoring our happy memories.

Fruit and Cheese
Scottish Scones and Highland Shortbread (recipe below)

Savory Picnic Omelette

What You Need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and diced (I parboiled the potato to reduce cooking time)
1 small leek, finely chopped
6 tablespoons cooked green peas, fresh or frozen
1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
6 tablespoons (1/2 cup) chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
6 large eggs
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
Over a medium flame, heat the oil. Add the potato and cook for about 10 minutes or until browned. Add the onions and sautee. Add the leek and pepper. Cook 6 to 8 minutes. Add the peas.
In another bowl, beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and cheese. Pour the mixture over the potato-leek-onion dice. Cook over a medium flame for about 5 minutes. Stir at least twice to distribute the egg mixture. Do not burn the omelette (as I did). Remove the pan from the flame and run under the broiler. Cook until the eggs puff up and turn golden. Serve warm. If you're taking the omelette to a picnic, wrap and refrigerate.

Easy Hand Pies
Hand pies are portable, versatile, and will please a crowd. They're super easy. I've had excellent results with store-bought, refrigerated pie dough sheets (in the dairy case). I used a lattice/hand pie mold (the lattice design is optional), as it seals the edges. 
Place a circle of dough into the bowl of the gadget, add your filling (sweet or savory), and close the gadget. Bam--there's your unbaked pie. Use leftover dough to make designs on top of the pies (I bought nature/floral-inspired cookie presses at Williams Sonoma). Brush the pies with egg wash and bake according to the directions on the dough box. The pies travel well to picnics and potluck dinners.

Crockpot BBQ Sliders

1 Boston butt or pork roast of your choice (4-6 servings)
4 slices bacon, uncooked
1 cup chopped red onions
1 cup chopped bell peppers (red, orange, green)
paprika, salt & pepper, chili powder
1 beef bouillon cube plus 1 c. warm water or 1 c. beef broth
2 to 4 T red wine or red wine vinegar
Slider buns
1 bag of slaw mix
white wine vinegar
sugar; salt and pepper

First, make the slaw. Place slaw mix in a bowl and add mayonnaise and vinegar. I don't have a recipe for this, sorry. Add a little mayo at a time. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. You can add poppy seeds if you like. Mix well. Cover bowl and refrigerate. 
Prepare the roast. In large skillet, fry bacon and set aside (save grease). Rinse roast and pat dry. Season with paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper (I season heavily, covering every inch of the roast).
Into the skillet, add 1 T butter and 1 T oil (or bacon grease).
Sear roast on all sides. Remove from skillet and place in Crockpot.
De-glaze skillet with a few tablespoons red wine (or red wine vinegar), stirring the bottom of the pan continuously. Add chopped vegetables and sautee until tender and clear. Add vegetables to Crockpot. Add bouillon/water mixture or beef broth. Cover the pot. Cook on high for 6 hours or until roast is done. 
Remove roast from Crockpot. Using two forks, shred the meat. Add your favorite barbecue sauce. Place BBQ in slider buns, add sauce, if desired, and top with slaw.

Grilled Meat Loaf
                            serves: 4 to 6

2 pounds ground beef
1 egg
Mix and place in a large bowl.
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic cloves, minced
Mix and add to meat mixture.
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Place pepper, chili powder, thyme, and salt in a food processor. Grind into a fine powder.
Add to the onion-carrot meat mixture.

Blend ingredients and shape the meat into a loaf. Place on a flat, tempered glass board or
other thin surface.

Make the Glaze:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Tabasco
Mix and place in a clean bowl.

Heat the grill. Use indirect heat by pushing the briquettes aside. (You can also put a drip pan beneath the loaf.) Slice loaf onto the grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 minutes, depending on thickness of the loaf). I added the glaze during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Remove the loaf from grill. Let the meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve on buns or French bread.

Click HERE for a printable recipe.

Grilled Vegetables\

Slice zucchini, eggplant, and red bell peppers. 

Toss with extra virgin olive oil, then season with Kosher salt and freshly ground

 pepper. Grill until tender. Garnish with Italian parsley.

Grilled Pork Kebabs
1 pork tenderloin 
salt and pepper

I bought a pre-seasoned tenderloin and cubed it; but a homemade marinade would be even better. Prepare the grill. Slice the vegetables, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Skewer the meat and vegetables. Remove from grill when the meat is nicely browned.

Pineapple-Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

Sautee 1/2 cup chopped onion in 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add 1/2 cup chopped (multicolor) bell peppers. Sautee until the onions are translucent. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and sautee another minute (don't burn it or you'll have to start over; don't salt and pepper at this point, as this hinders the sautéing process). Add 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (less if you prefer) and cook another minute or two, stirring frequently.
Drop in a handful of fresh raspberries (optional--they are impossibly seedy!), 1 [18-ounce] jar of seedless raspberry jam, 1/4 cup chopped pineapple, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, a splash of raspberry balsamic, and at least 1 whole, canned chipotle pepper (remove the seeds by scraping them with a knife). If you love heat, add the whole can, including a few teaspoons of the adobe sauce.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Reduce the sauce over a low flame. Transfer the slightly cooled sauce to a large bowl (set the pan aside--you'll need it later). Puree the sauce with an immersion hand blender. 
Place a strainer basket in the sautee pan.
Pour the sauce into the strainer.
Discard seeds. Pour sauce into a sterilized Mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for 1 week--if it lasts that long.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Tarts
PRINTABLE RECIPE is available.

Minty Watermelon Lemonade
Printable Recipe
                                                                                                Serves 4 to 6

Basic Sugar Syrup:
2 c. water
2 c. granulated sugar
mint leaves

Place water and sugar in a saucepan. Stir. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Reduce liquid until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Add mint leaves. Cover the pan and remove from heat. Remove mint before serving. Store in a clear Mason jar and refrigerate. Use in watermelon lemonade, lemonade, or iced tea.

Watermelon Lemonade:
2 cups water
1 seedless watermelon
juice of 1 lemon
2 or more ounces sugar syrup

Cut 1/2 watermelon into cubes and freeze. Put remaining watermelon in a blender and puree (or use an immersion hand blender). Strain the mixture and discard seeds and pulp. Mix puree with water, lemon juice, and sugar syrup (to taste). Serve over watermelon "ice" cubes and crushed ice. Garnish with mint.

Festive Berry Tart
  Printable Recipe                             
1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, defrosted
1 box each of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries
Jell-O vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 8 oz carton mascarpone
1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like mascarpone)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg (for egg wash)
few drops of fresh lemon juice
few tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting
fresh mint
Preheat oven according to instructions on the puff pastry box. (I put my oven on 380).
Roll out each square of puff pastry dough. Place first square on a greased baking pan. Place second sheet on top of the first. Beat the egg. Brush pastry edges with the egg wash.
Bake 15 minutes or until pastry is brown. Remove from oven and cool.
The pastry will be unbelievably poofy, but it will deflate later on. Trust.
Meanwhile, make the pudding according to instructions on the box. Chill.
Mix the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and cream. I used a wire whisk.
Spread the mascarpone mixture onto the top layer of the cooled pastry, deflating the poofiness somewhat. Spread the pudding over the mascarpone. Arrange berries on top of the pudding and sprinkle the whole thing with powdered sugar. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with sweet-smelling mint.
Serves: 8 (if they have normal appetites). Otherwise, it's half for you and half for me.


Farmhouse Linguini with Organic Tomato Sauce
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
organic tomato sauce
fresh mozzarella or your favorite Italian cheese
fresh  Buitoni pasta
1 shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Cook for 3 minutes until translucent/clear. Salt and pepper.
Add three cloves of garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add 1 -15 ounce can of organic tomato sauce (no salt added--add your own sea salt to taste)
Roll 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves into a log and slice (or chop). This method helps prevent the basil from turning dark. Add to sauce.
In a separate pan, bring salted water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Toss in 1 package of Buitoni fresh linguini.
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain pasta and add to sauce.
Add finely chopped, fresh mozzarella or your favorite cheese.
Garnish with basil.


  1. Oh, what I'd give for your view! And some of your food! You don't happen to have a tiny cottage on your land that you want to rent out, do you?

  2. Amazing photos! It's hard to pick one I love the best, but I especially love the Sunflowers and the Key Lime Pie looks seriously yummy! Must try your lavender ice cream as well! Thank you for sharing your lovely views!

  3. Oh my. oh my - what a beautiful post. All the fabulous photo's and wonderful food, I'm in heaven. All the food looks terrific and I would like one of each, please. Your view is spectacular and reminds me so much of the farm in VA that my relatives have. How I wish I lived back there living.
    I am going to copy a lot of these recipes, as they looks so good. Thank you again for this lovely post.
    Have a wonderful weekend. Hope Zap is doing well. Waldo and Lili send hugs to him.

  4. This is a fabulous summer menu! I cannot wait to try these recipes.

  5. Gorgeous views and the food looks amazing!

  6. I want to go on a picnic right this minute! Too bad I have to go to the grocery store instead lol

    I can't believe all the food on Annabel's plate! I could have eaten all of it though ;) She's beautiful.

    Gorgeous pictures, my friend.


  7. Your photography is outstanding! Those pork kebabs might be something I will try soon! Cute little grand too. Sheila

  8. What fun to have an out of door picnic at your place! Beautiful photos, ML.

  9. The views on your property are absolutely breathtaking. That is one thing we have enjoyed about the Nashville area...rolling hills, beautiful sunsets, lots of color....the sounds as night falls. Thank you for sharing some great recipes also!!

  10. Beautiful gardens, beautiful food, and a wealth of summer delights. Thank you, Michael Lee. Your property has the most bucolic view. Big sigh from the city girl!

  11. Oh my goodness, Michael Lee, what a feast for the eyes and the soul that you've laid out before us. Minnie Pause was the perfect hostess and your darling Annabelle stole my heart.

  12. love love LOVE seeing your summers stroll by again! so many tried and true classics and always wonderful to see your pics again. your gd is adorable!

    you are putting me into a fevered pitch as i keep scrolling through all the yummies... oy, and i thought i was full! what a delightful way to dream away the evening...

  13. What a wonderful prelude to summer! All your lovely pics of the yummy looking food and luscious garden images make me want to take the whole summer off and do nothing but fun things like having picnics, baking, working in my garden, and.... the list goes on and on. Minnie Pause is wonderful (very clever name too, if only it was a 'minnie pause'). I love your red, blue, and white picnic-ware too! Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your nice comment.

  14. Beautiful! Your blog looks as though it were right out of a magazine!

  15. I love all your vintage tablecloths and the photos are beautiful. That lavender vanilla ice cream is calling my name!

  16. I just love your scarecrow and your table settings. The food looks amazing and the grandbabies are adorable. I'd love for you to come link up some of you scarecrow or table posts at our blog hop sometimes.... Simple Saturdays.

    Hugs from Oklahoma,

    Cottage Making Mommy

  17. You have such a gorgeous home and the food looks amazing!!! Thank you for joining Home Sweet Home!

  18. So many beautiful summer pictures and inspiration! That ice cream looks so wonderful! Summer is the best!

  19. Michael Lee, I'm back to slowly enjoy the pages of your summer notebook once again. So many beautiful images and great recipes. I'll have one of those lavender ice cream cups.

  20. I want to come to your house for vacation!!! all your photos are amazing. Key Lime Pie is my fave, looks so yummy!!