Summer Plates

Mid-Summer Fruit Salad
. cantaloupe, cut in cubes
. watermelon, cut in cubes
. strawberries, halved
. grapes, halved
. blueberries
. fresh mint leaves, chopped
. fresh lemon juice
. agave nectar (optional - adds just a touch more sweetness)

1. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside and serve chilled.

Mediterranean Artichoke and Edamame Stew
(adapted from a NY Times recipe)
. 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (fresh or frozen artichoke hearts can be used)
. 1 lemon (2 lemons if using fresh baby artichokes)
. 1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
. 3 garlic cloves, minced
. 1 lb shelled edamame ( use fresh fava beans if seasonal and can be found)
. 1/4 cup fresh fennel or dill (1 tbsp dried dill can be used as a substitute)
. chicken broth (optional)
. salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Trim the artichokes, cut in half and immediately submerge in a bowl of water acidulated with the juice of 1/2 lemon. (Skip this step if using canned artichokes - simply drain and rinse quartered artichoke hearts and set aside)
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until tender, about three minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for a minute until fragrant. Drain the artichokes, and add the skinned edamame (fava beans), the fennel or dill, and the juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons) and the remaining olive oil. Add enough water (or chicken broth) to just cover everything, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the broth fragrant.
3. Turn the heat to high, and reduce the liquid in the pan by about a third. Stir in a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust salt. Serve warm.

Herb-Roasted Whole Chicken
. ready-made and deliciously prepared from our local Rice Epicurean Market (It's summer... I had to cheat somewhere)

Nothing says summer like a crisp, refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio.
House-warming gift from our lovely neighbor and friend, Ms. Vicki

blueberry pancakes.

Today is Sunday and it's Father's Day. Unfortunately, my father is out of town for business in Singapore or on a plane somewhere heading to South Korea? Which brings me to my next point - how proud I am of my father. He is the hardest working man I know and still continues to bring fun, happiness, and love into our family.

Anyone who has been to our house on Sunday mornings knows that John (my dad) 'mans the kitchen' on this day. He takes omelet orders, grills bacon, bakes delicious beer biscuits, and makes a big pot of coffee for everyone.

Since my dad isn't here this Sunday, and we already celebrated Father's Day with him before he left on Wednesday, I decided to make breakfast for my mom and sister this morning. I didn't feel right about making omelets and beer biscuits without my dad, (truth - I just don't feel confident enough in my omelet-making abilities) so I decided to make blueberry pancakes.
The recipe is simple.

blueberry pancakes.

yields 10-12 cakes

. 1 cup flour
. 2 tbsp sugar
. 1 tsp baking powder
. 1/2 tsp baking soda
. 1/2 tsp salt
. 1/4 tsp cinnamon

. 1 egg
. 3/4 - 1 cup milk (i used almond milk)
. 1 tbsp canola oil
. 1 tsp vanilla extract
. 1 tbsp yogurt (optional)

. 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until batter is mixed. Fold in blueberries or, as I like to do, hand place them onto individual cakes once batter is poured on the pan. Heat a lightly greased griddle over medium heat and pour 1/4 cup of batter on pan. Once bubbles form, flip, wait 1 minute... flip onto plate. Enjoy.

Happy Father's Day Dad. I love you.

Indian Dal Recipe

I am finally back from my adventures abroad in Asia. After spending over five months in Thailand and Cambodia, I returned "home" to Dallas this May to spend the summer with my family. Coincidentally, but not surprisingly, my family is moving yet again this summer. My dad's company merged with another and the corporate headquarters is changing from Dallas to Houston. Thankfully, this move isn't taking my family overseas, but it still doesn't minimize the magnitude of moving for an eighteenth time. It was actually when I learned about this move that I decided to spend the summer helping my family in Texas rather than returning to Charleston to work. I realized, with the help of some not-so-subtle hints from my mom, that I might actually enjoy helping my family and relaxing during my last official Summer break before graduating from college this May. Needless to say, my homecoming was brief and I quickly kicked into moving-gear and started this summer-long transition process. I cannot begin to explain the exhausting list of things to-do pre- and post- moving homes and to a different city. Let's just say my mother is an angel and should be awarded 18 medals for "amazingness" in having to manage and orchestrate 18 moves in 25 years of marriage. These things are not easy and rarely fun.

Onto brighter things... we are officially "moved-in" to our new house in Houston, Texas. Yes there are still boxes to be unpacked and yes there are still a thousand things to do before this house finally feels like a home, but we are here and we are happy. Now that the worst is over, I have decided that my energy is best spent helping my mom with the domestic side of things. I assumed the title "Nanny Nat" during my two week stint in Dallas - when I drove my little sister Charlotte to and from school every day, ran just about every errand possible for my mom, while walking the dog daily and making sure the movers got their XL Happy Meal from McDonald's each day. Now that Charlotte is out of school (and sleeping in until noon) and there are no more hungry movers around, I have started doing the laundry, organizing cabinets, taking Charlotte on candy runs, and finally cooking!

Cooking is the first thing to go during moves. When you have a never-ending list of things to do before a move, going to the grocery and prepping a meal is the last thing on your mind. So we have basically eaten out every meal for the past 2 weeks. While it might sound indulgent, it gets old (and expensive)... fast. So I have taken it upon myself as Nanny Nat to also prepare nice meals for my family so that they don't have to worry about coming home late and not having a plan for dinner. I woke up with an intense craving for Dal (Indian lentil soup) this morning and couldn't resist not having it in my mouth today. So Nanny Nat took over and decided to make a hearty batch of Dal for dinner tonight. It was so fresh and so delicious (according to my mom and Charlotte) I decided I had to share! I am sure there are a few things I would change if I had to do it over again - but this was my first attempt at Dal and let's just say I was not disappointed one bit. I found a recipe using one of my favorite sites and decided to double it since soup is one thing that can be frozen and often tastes better the second time around.

I cannot emphasize enough how simple Dal is to make, how fresh and nutritious it is, and how hearty and delicious it tastes.

Indian Lentil Soup or Methi Dal
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free / Serves about 4
* 1 tablespoon canola oil or ghee
* ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
* 2 dried chilis, left whole
* 1 small onion, diced
* 1 tablespoon minced ginger
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1 cup red lentils (or yellow lentils)
* 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
* 1 cup fresh fenugreek leaves (substitute with 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek or 1 cup of fresh spinach or both) I used a fresh bundle of spinach
* 1 tablespoon, or to taste, lemon juice
* Salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add cumin and chili into the oil. When cumin sizzles, add onion and sauté on medium heat till the onion is soft. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
2. Add lentils and turmeric to the saucepan and stir. Pour 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer till the lentils are cooked, about 12 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on the lentil you use.
3. While the dal is cooking, wash the fenugreek, pluck the leaves and tender stems, and discard the rest. Measure out 1 cup of plucked fenugreek.
4. When dal is almost done cooking, stir in the fenugreek leaves (or dried fenugreek and/or spinach), and boil for 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, and salt.
5. Serve hot with rice, pappadum, or naan.
And of course dessert, Almond Dream Chocolate with fresh raspberries and mini chocolate chips