Several weeks ago some of the ladies at my office gathered for a simple wine night: wine, cheese, almonds… shishito peppers? One of my coworkers pulled out a bag, set a pan on the stove and set to work making us her current favorite snack. Considering that another attendee was wielding a knife for her everyday treat of red pepper slices, I guess it wasn’t THAT odd. (We’re a fun bunch, really.) (No, REALLY. Our next wine night is actually Four Flavors of Homemade Ice Cream Night, with Wine.)
Have you tried shishito peppers yet? They’re a thin-skinned little pepper with a (mostly) mild flavor. Every so often you’ll get a spicy one, but not enough to turn this spice wimp off. For an even more flavorful snack, I made a simple dipping sauce that’s the perfect compliment.
So, you might have heard that I got a grill. It’s basically changed my life. Sure, that’s *slightly* hyperbolic, but not too far off the mark! I feel like it’s so much easier and faster to cook this way- and it doesn’t warm up my entire kitchen in ninety degree heat. That’s a pretty conclusive argument, I’d say.
To go with my charred corn and burgers, I whipped up a quick basil soda. I noticed the drink option on a restaurant menu when I was in Portland in May and needed to order it right away. Basil is such a unique ingredient: sweet and spicy and fresh all at once. I was hooked from the first sip.
“The hubby and I took a long weekend to travel to an underrated part of Japan. Hokkaido, the northernmost island, is known for its fresh seafood, amazing dairy, grass-fed beef and lamb, and great skiing (Sapporo, the largest city on the island, hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics). We visited in the winter for their Snow Festival a few years ago, but this summer trip made me really fall in love with the area. Sapporo has brutal winters, and this vibrant city takes advantage of mild summers with festivals, music, outdoor patios and beer gardens. We took a bus trip to see the lavender fields (where we ate lavender soft serve with a little too much lavender in it…tasted vaguely like your grandma’s soap), went to a craft beer festival, saw a baseball game, and just walked around the city. I highly recommend a trip to Hokkaido if you’re visiting Japan. Look for a Sapporo city guide in the next few weeks!”
“YOU GUYS. You guys! I GOT A GRILL! How is it even possible that I’ve never had a grill until now?! Based on the amount of meals we’ve eaten this week where grilling was involved, it’s amazing that we even were fed before. The current favorites are organic, grass-fed beef burgers with Parmesan-Romano corn on the cob. What else do I need to make? I also just got my first CSA box so I’m looking forward to zucchini, tomatoes and more corn on the cob. We even have lamb chops in the fridge ready for the weekend!”
There’s only so many ways that you can begin a blog post gushing about summer. I’m pretty sure I’ve hit the threshold, so let’s pretend I didn’t just gush by proxy in that last sentence and focus on the fact that portable dessert is HERE. Cool watermelon slices, drippy ice cream cones, ice box pies- all treats you can enjoy from the comfort of your own outdoor space.
These Cinnamon Chocolate Paletas are super simple (only 5 ingredients!), but full of flavor and perfect any time of day. You can totally jazz them up: drizzle on chocolate syrup, dip in roasted almonds or sprinkle extra cinnamon right on the popsicle itself. Or enjoy the sweet and spicy creaminess all on its own!
Shrink plastic. A.k.a. Shrinky Dinks. A.k.a. puraban (in Japanese). Do you know about this stuff? I was a really crafty kid, and I somehow missed this miracle product. I understand that it was big in the 80’s, and I guess I was probably a little to young to know about it. It seems to be making a comeback though! I was at a Japanese craft store a few weeks ago with a friend who explained the concept to me, and I almost died of excitement (it’s huge here in Japan). You buy clear sheets of thin plastic and draw your own designs on them with permanent marker. Cut out the shape and bake the plastic in an oven for about 45 seconds. The plastic shrinks to create a much smaller, much thicker, and sturdier piece of plastic with your design on it (in miniature, with more concentrate color). They also sell the plastic sheets in different colors and patterns that you can cut shapes out of.
All I could think of were the possibilities. Jewelry! Magnets! Hair clips! Pins! Where to start? I actually didn’t even try to make anything for about 2 weeks because I couldn’t decide where to begin. I’ve been hooked on calligraphy, so I thought it would be fun to write out names on different shapes to create shrink plastic tags. I loved them so much that I turned them into tied napkin rings for my next dinner party, but they could also be gift tags, drink markers, or even jewelry. Now I’m addicted, and I’ve created a Pinterest board full of inspiration.
“Yet another rainy, humid week in Tokyo. We’re headed up to Hokkaido this weekend see the lavender fields, and I can’t wait to get out of the city! Sunshine and fresh air. Yes, please. Even this city girl needs a little taste of the country once in a while. It doesn’t hurt that Hokkaido is also the dairy capital of Japan and they have soft-serve ice cream everywhere.
Speaking of ice cream: I’m on a huge ice cream kick right now, so this week’s links are all ice cream-themed! In fact, I’m considering getting a more serious ice cream machine. I have a little Cuisinart one that works fine, but I can’t help but think there’s something better out there. And I wouldn’t mind being able to make bigger batches. Do you have any suggestions?”
*Growing up, we used to have broken graham crackers in milk for breakfast. Drinking the graham cracker-infused milk at the bottom of the bowl was my favorite part, so this graham cracker ice cream sounds like a trip down memory lane.
“A day off turned into a day ON this morning due to some looming deadlines next week, but not to worry- I took the edge off with a donut (sugar raised and pumped full of ‘naughty cream‘). (Notice to doughnut bakers everywhere: name something naughty cream and I’m buying it FOR SURE.) Next time I’m getting some next to the dark chocolate cream with the Meyer Lemon option. Can ‘next time’ be ‘right now’?
The work day ended up being super productive and so I’m looking forward to some adventures this weekend: definitely a trip to the farmer’s market, maybe buying a new grill (I’m saying this casually but I’m ALL CAPS EXCITED) and a leisurely bike ride. Do you have any adventures planned? Extra credit points if they include sunshine and gin.”
This is a guide that’s specific to the islands that we visited in French Polynesia: Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. As I mentioned in my more general guide to visiting French Polynesia, there are over 100 islands to chose from! We decided to spend more time on only 3 islands, rather than island hop constantly. I’m glad we did it that way, and I suggest spending 3-6 days on each island to give yourself time to relax and get comfortable. That’s the best part of French Polynesia, and if you’re constantly dealing with hotels and catching flights, you’ll leave yourself less time to sit on the beach, take naps or snorkel!
When I was in high school, I worked as a leader for my city’s day camp. It was one heck of a job: eight weeks of hikes and cookouts and archery and songs and the world’s best coworkers. We made lanyards and had a Western Week and took Friday off to hit the local lakes for some swimming. I loved it so much- I figure if I ever get in the position where I have two months off in the summer I’m totally going back.
Every Thursday after work, the families of the campers headed up to meet us at camp. Armed with blankets and picnics, we all ate before assembling for a campfire of songs and skits. (My favorite might have been the group of 3rd graders we wrangled into singing Huey Lewis’s ‘Naturally,’ complete with a lead singer and back-up dancer wadda-boomers.) After camp, we all split up and the leaders drove home together. And that’s when it happened, one summer night in 1997. My coworker said, shortly after the solstice: “Welp, that’s it. We lose a minute of light a night from here on out.”
I’ve never forgotten it because while it’s true, really, doesn’t it just remind you to pause and appreciate every moment of summer? To revel in the daylight and the sunshine and keep a little day camp spirit alive? That’s why we’re making a quick DIY project today: an upgrade for your sunglasses. Jazz ’em up with bright color and wear them all summer long!
“The rainy season, ugh. It’s so hot and humid, and it’d been raining almost every day. It sure makes you less excited about going outside. As a result, I’ve been scraping together some pretty hodge-podge meals. Popcorn for dinner, hummus and pita for lunch, pastina with butter and cheese. What are your favorite ‘I don’t feel like leaving the house’ meals?”
“I’ve been to lots of cooking classes and I’d have to say that they’re always fun. But this week I went to a dim sum class and it was AWESOME. The class was held at a cooking school so we had hours of access to the full professional kitchen (including any extra ingredients we wanted to use in order to jazz up our recipes) and small group sizes so we all got to actually cook. Since you often don’t get to make every recipe, I was in heaven. I’m dreaming up some new versions of the techniques I learned, so stay tuned!”
I had a delicious little cup of ice cream the other day, and I can’t get it out of my head. It was one scoop of strawberry sorbet, one scoop of matcha ice cream, and one scoop of roasted green tea ice cream (hojicha). While not a new combination, the sweetness of the strawberries tempering the pleasant grassiness of the matcha against a creamy ice cream backdrop was absolutely perfect for a hot summer night. I had to find a way to recreate this at home.