Summer Celebrations

fireworksI always consider the 4th of July the middle of summer (although with the weather we’ve been having the past couple of months, I hope that isn’t the case this year!). It’s a perfect time to get outside, cook on the grill, and make fruit pies. A few of weeks ago, my 11-year-old nephew made a blueberry pie for Father’s Day and after having a slice (which was delicious), I said I needed the recipe. About 10 minutes later he returned with a copy, which came from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. This cookbook, with its red and white checked cover, is what I grew up learning how to cook from; it has excellent recipes that are easy to follow. When my nephew spent the weekend and I was in a mood to make a rhubarb pie, we went into the kitchen.

I honestly don’t know if rhubarb can be found in other parts of the country or the world. Is it, dear readers? I’d love to know! Here in Vermont, it is a springtime staple. I usually buy many stalks, chop, and then freeze it–sometimes for up to a year. I had some leftover rhubarb in the freezer, so I just took it out and defrosted it before making the pie.

This recipe is super simple, 4 cups of rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, ¼ cup flour. I had some fresh Vermont strawberries on the counter, so I added about a half-cup sliced. It wasn’t until after it was ready to go in the oven that I realized I normally add a bit of spice, some cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, or grated orange rind to the fruit mixture. But it didn’t matter, this was a perfect rhubarb pie; a little tart, a little sweet. You can use a pre-made crust, or make the one I always use from The Joy of Cooking: 1 ½ cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 6 tablespoons of butter, and ice water (add by the tablespoon until the dough is ready to roll out). There are two times of the year I made pies, summer and Thanksgiving. Hands down, pie is my favorite dessert, there is just something special about a homemade pie.
rhubarb pie

I’m going to take next week off to get out of the kitchen, so here is a great selection of past MVK recipes that are perfect to make for your 4th of July celebration and beyond this summer!

Macaroni Salad

Potato Salad

Szechuan Cucumbers

Red White and Blue Salad

Gigi’s Chicken Salad

Black Bean Salad with Shrimp

Crumbly Peach Pie

Blueberry Pie

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Macaroni Salad: A Healthier Way

Just in time for Fourth of July weekend!  One of the things I love to eat every summer (and sometimes when I have a hankering for it, wintertime too!), is macaroni salad. Tiny elbows of macaroni with a mixture of eggs, onion, and mayonnaise. I like it simple and unadorned.

I’ve seen many a recipe for healthy macaroni salads. To me, whole wheat elbows, topped with low fat cheese, or filling it with other vegetables just isn’t macaroni salad; I’d prefer not to eat it at all if that’s my option. Through the years, I’ve tried to make a healthier version and this is my standby. Using juicy pickles (my favorite is dill) cuts down on the amount of mayonnaise you need to use. This is enough for two servings, with leftovers. And doubling (or tripling!) the recipe for a crowd is a snap!

“Healthy” Macaroni Salad
1 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked
2 hard boiled eggs
Chopped scallions or onions (the amount depends on how much or little you prefer)
Chopped dill pickles, about 2 spears
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
A generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and a dash of salt

Cook macaroni per directions, or for 8-9 minutes in boiling water. Drain macaroni and place in bowl and let it cool. Add chopped egg, scallions, pickles, and mix. Add mayonnaise and mix thoroughly until incorporated. Add salt and pepper and serve, or chill until dinner is ready!

Happy Fourth of July! I hope everyone has a happy and safe weekend! Enjoy the fireworks and eat lots of good summertime food!