Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!


Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil


Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.


Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!


Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!


Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.


Mad Men Manhattan



sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Old-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Don't the clouds look like cotton candy?

Don’t the clouds look like cotton candy?

A funny thing happened to me in March. I received an email from a local filmmaker, Josh Hummel, who stumbled across my blog and my recipe for blueberry pie from 2012  and wanted to meet to discuss a film he was planning on making that featured—ta da! A blueberry pie!

The film, titled “The Kitchen of Ambrosia,” is brilliant; six athletes come together with ingredients to make a pie that is then shared. A runner gathers the berries, a kayaker takes the berries into the lake to wash them, a hiker goes into the woods for the maple syrup, a cyclist goes to a farm to gather wheat berries and cream, a rock climber grinds the wheat into flour, and a mountain biker goes over bumps and hills to make the butter. I spent a few hours filming this over the past few weekends and had great fun. And as you can surmise, I was the cook so I had to make two delicious tasting—and more importantly good looking–pies!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

My blueberry pie is normally made with sugar, but I wanted this to be authentic to the film, so I found this pie recipe published in Bon Appétit magazine that uses maple syrup. I had wanted to practice making a lattice crust this summer, but time escaped me, so I had to do it on the fly! And it was super easy! I used these instructions, and had my phone in front of me as I followed the instructions on crisscrossing the crust. Since I was making two pies in the morning of the film shoot, I made the crust ahead of time to save on time and popped it in the fridge. You can do this too, just make sure the crust is room temperature before you start to roll it out. And of course, you don’t have to do a lattice, a “regular” crust will taste just as good!

The pie filling was delicious; I was disappointed in my crust and that the filling bubbled over a little bit, but all the athletes declared it delicious! I haven’t seen the final movie but saw a sneak peek of the rough cut and I can’t wait to be able to share this little bit of Vermont with you in the near future!

bluepieOld-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
This recipe first appeared in the August 1999 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. Pie crust is from The Joy of Cooking.

Pie crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon or so of salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Ice water

4 cups fresh blueberries (about 23 ounces)
1 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup unbleached all purposed flour
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the crust: In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the butter, cut into chunks, and with a pastry blender or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water and mix until the crust melds together, and divide in half. On a floured surface, take your rolling pin, add a little bit of flour to the pin and the crust, and work it in a circle until it is about 9 inches for your pie pan. Carefully set it into a greased glass pie plate.

Combine blueberries, syrup, flour, tapioca, and juice in a bowl; toss to blend. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add the filling and repeat rolling out the crust for the top or cut for lattice. Bake pie until juice bubble thickly and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Cool pie on rack. Serve at room temperature.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Tonight’s Dinner

I read about food every single day. Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, websites, emails, cookbooks, I am always getting new ideas and inspirations. A few months back, I told you about the email the New York Time’s Food team sends several times a week. It’s great and I get lots of creative suggestions for meals that don’t take a lot of time or money to put on the table. I just loved this message last week from writer Sam Sifton. I’m going to look for some local tomatoes tonight!

fresh-tomato-exporterSummer cooking is different from the cooking we do other times of the year. Here are some beautiful tomatoes. With a drizzle of olive oil, a spray of salt and a garnish of capers, that’s dinner, and if someone happens to have a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella to tear apart on top of it all, so much the better. Honey, could you grab me some basil? Dinner is served. (Try doing that in February.)


Number 200

200What began during a March blizzard in 2011 as a creative way to get my adventures in the kitchen out into the world has developed into a weekly ritual of cooking and writing. In three years’ time, you’ve come along with me to specialty food shops in Florida, our local agricultural fair, and the sites of New York; my birthday tribute to Julia Child (when the electricity went out); I Mad Men’d myself for cocktails and Caesar salad; I’ve passed along family recipes, recipes I’ve created, and of course those from Cooking Light.

Despite being a pretty good home cook, I know there always is room to grow and for improvement. I recently made pancakes for my nephew who dubbed them good and gobbled them up, but when I bit into them, I realized I had forgotten the sugar! Well, at least my audience was happy! Just like everything in life, I am always learning and all I can do is to keep trying and mastering my craft. A big thank you to all who have been with me along the way, and a special thank you to Marta T., my very first follower who wasn’t related to me! And I can’t let this post escape with without thanking the Eater of the House, who has withstood experimental, delicious (and not so delicious), and really late dinners because of my writing and cooking! He is my first test taster, so nothing goes here without his seal of approval!

So since this is Post #200, I decided to give myself a reprieve this week and revisit my favorite pie recipe since it’s August and peach season. What better way to celebrate these beautiful golden orbs than with a pie?

peach pie

I can’t take credit for this pie; my Mom baked this beauty!

Crumbly Peach Pie
2/3 cup sugar (scant)
3/8 cup (6 Tablespoons) flour
1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) butter (scant)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 6-8 peach halves, skinned

Mix the ingredients together and place half of the mixture at the bottom of a ready-to-bake pie crust. Place the peach halves on top and add the remainder of the crumbly mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

To peel peaches: Fill a large pan with water and bring to a boil. In the sink, fill a large bowl with extra cold water. When the water has come to a boil, add the peaches one at a time and let it sit in the water for about 45 seconds to a minute. (The timing is very important, as you don’t want the peaches to cook.) Transfer immediately to the bowl of cold water. If everything goes well, you should be able to slip off the skins easily with your fingers. If you find they don’t, you can stick them in the hot water a little bit longer.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Tourterelle, New Haven, Vermont
For my 200th post, I thought I would give you a little peek at food in other kitchens in the state. Tourterelle is one of my favorite local restaurants that is one where we go for special occasions. The Eater of the House took me out a couple of weeks ago as a thank you for the pick up and drop off during a hiking excursion. French in theme, it’s a little country house that has a beautiful bar and several rooms where you can dine solo, à deux, or with a party.

I wasn’t very hungry that night, but that didn’t stop us from ordering the Salade de Homard (lobster salad), chunks of lobster with crunchy kohlrabi, radishes, a thin buttermilk dressing, and topped with puffed polenta. I could have eaten three of those alone! For my entrée, I ordered the Crêpe à la St Jacques, a thinly folded crepe with fresh sea scallops and wild mushrooms in a thin wine sauce. (If I were at home, I would have licked my plate!)

Unless it’s going to our local pub, I like to go to restaurants that serve food I can’t or won’t make at home. I know I will never even attempt to make crêpes at home, so this was a lovely evening out with absolutely delicious food. So this week, let someone else do the cooking and tell me about your adventures!

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

Homemade Blueberry Pie

“I listen to NPR every day and I can’t sleep at night because of the world I live in. But blueberry pie, that’s nothin’ but joy!”

A chef at the Culinary Institute of America, on a National Public Radio story discussing the fear of making a homemade blueberry pie.

Ever since I heard that story on the radio and I listened to local cookbook author Gesine Bullock-Prado discuss her latest book, Pie It Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes, and Other Pastries Reinvented, I’ve had a hankering to make a pie. Hands down, my favorite dessert is homemade pie. Forget cake, ice cream, even chocolate, if I can have a piece of homemade pie, I am in heaven. I have favorites throughout the year that correspond with the seasons, fall and winter is pecan and apple, and this time of year I love my grandmother’s peach pie (recipe can be found here). But this summer, with the appearance of the first crop of local blueberries, I had blueberry pie on my mind.

Berries don’t last very long in my house at all, so I had to be quick about grabbing the pints I bought at the farmer’s market. And leave it to me to choose the hottest day of the year to decide to turn on the oven! With sweat on my brow, the butter for the crust melting on the counter (sticking it in the freezer for five to ten minutes is just enough time to harden it up again!), and the prospect of yet another late dinner, I still entered the kitchen to start baking.

Pie making really is quite easy, the berries go into a big bowl and are  gently stirred with the sugar and cornstarch. I always get a little nervous when making pie crust, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a pro. And remembering Gesine talk about making pastry (she makes it sound so simple!) relaxed me a bit.

This recipe is a combination of two different recipes; the crust is from The Joy of Cooking, the filling is from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Since my berries were extra sweet, I cut the original ¾ cup of sugar to ½. But in hindsight, I might rethink that next time. Perhaps it was the lemon juice, but I found the pie to be a bit more tart than I normally like. So you can gauge how much sugar to use, perhaps something in between.

By the time we ate dinner it was 9:30(!), a hot dessert was the last thing we wanted, so it was pie for breakfast the next morning. And in the vein of “pieing it forward,” I carefully sliced it and shared pieces with friends. Because, really, who can resist homemade pie?

Next week, I’m thinking it might be cherry. Or peach. Or maybe red raspberry. . . .

Homemade Blueberry Pie


  • 5+ cups fresh blueberries
  • ½-¾ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • About 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • A dash of salt


  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon or so of salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Ice water

For the crust: In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the butter, cut into chunks, and with a pastry blender or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water and mix until the crust melds together, and divide in half. On a floured surface, take your rolling pin, add a little bit of flour to the pin and the crust, and work it in a circle until it is about 9 inches for your pie pan. Carefully set it into a greased glass pie plate. Add the filling and repeat rolling out the crust for the top. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, and reduce the heat to 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until the crust is brown.

MY Best Ever Apple Pie

(Writer’s note: I thought this would go unnoticed, but not by some astute readers. (Mom.) I am now going to post one article a week, Wednesday morning. I may on occasion write more, but I was beginning to feel pressured to put out two pieces weekly. (My own fault, I tend to be ambitious and committed to what I set out to do!) Rather than pass along two mediocre pieces, I will focus on just one for the time being. But winters in Vermont are long, so who knows!

A baker I am not, but when I read about the “Best Ever Apple Pie Contest” at our local harvest festival, a competitor I am! For the past couple of years, I’ve thought about entering this contest. While I have been making apple pie since I was about 12, it’s only been for friends and family. Could I win a blue ribbon from a panel of apple pie loving judges?

Like any good athlete, I went into training. Heck, it had been almost a year since I made my last apple pie, so I was rusty. I took Macintosh Apples, my usual butter crust, and made this one evening when I got home from work. The adage from the Joy of Cooking, “moisture out, dry air in,” is very true. The evening was just right, probably high 60s, and no humidity. The pie crust was gorgeous. The filling, according to my number one eater, was light on the sugar and cinnamon. I made a mental note to up both the next time. I also found it was a bit mushy, since Macs have a lot of water. The rest of the pie went off to a book club to be enjoyed.

Note: Two mistakes made here. One, I added the sugar and cinnamon to the apples when they were in the pie dish as opposed to mixing them in a bowl. This is the way I learned, but I don’t think you get the full incorporation of everything. Also, I used an apple corer. While this is really handy kitchen tool, it makes the apples almost instantaneously brown. Maybe I have a cheap model, but it won’t be used for pies again.

I decided to do some research and find out what is the best apple to make a pie. I think the jury is still out on that. Our local apple farmer said Macintosh and Cortlands; he told me the Sweet Williams I had just bought for Pie #2 were not going to do. I’ve never been picky about my apples for pie, I always figure if I have the right ratio of the sweet/tart of the apple to the sugar and spices, anything will taste good.

So, Pie #2 was with the errant Sweet Williams and a Crisco crust. Talking with friends–and eaters of Pie #1 Saturday morning–I was reminded some judges may be traditionalists, they’d want a lard or Crisco crust. Since I was on my way to the grocery store, I put Crisco on my list. They now make them in sticks, easier than the way I used to make it growing up, by glopping the white stuff into a measuring cup and taking two days to get the cup clean.

This is where I sometimes get myself in trouble in the kitchen. Two sticks of butter to two cups of flour for a butter crust. I swear I read two sticks of Crisco to two cups of flour. As I was mixing it up, I noticed there was way too much Crisco to the flour. I had misread it, it was supposed to be ¾ of one stick! To the compost pile I went, came back, made another crust with the correct ingredients, but I just couldn’t get it together. I thought it was too wet, added more flour, then it was too dry, added more water. It was a big mess and hence, didn’t leave the house it looked so horrible. Taste-wise, the crust was very flaky, and surprisingly enough, the Sweet Williams were a good apple for the pie. The upped sugar and cinnamon also were good.

I bought fixings for yet another pie, but didn’t get around to making it. The first-place pie wins $50, so I figured I didn’t want to spend that on just prepping, so I set everything aside for “the” pie.

Ready for the oven!

Pie day, I set the alarm for 6:45, but woke up a little after 6. Heck, that was sleeping in for me and plus, I was a little anxious. I heard the pitter patter of rain on the roof. Great. I thought I’d have to be doubly careful with the weather, but luckily the skies parted around 8.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Write what you know,” and I’ll take that one step further, “Cook what you know.” Back to the butter crust I went and I used Cortlands. The apples were fairly large, so I used five instead of six. For sugar, Pie #1 had ¼ cup, Pie #2 was ½ cup. Tasting the Cortlands, they are a bit on the sweeter side, so I put in ⅓ cup of sugar, then got worried and added another tablespoon. One teaspoon of cinnamon, and once the pie was in the dish, added a spritz of lemon juice, and dotted it with one tablespoon of butter and freshly grated nutmeg.

I find it’s easier to prep the apples before making the crust, I don’t know if that’s the traditional way, but that’s how I like to do it. I should have taken the butter out to warm a little bit while I prepped the apples, but I didn’t. So I found myself doing the previous night’s dinner dishes and baking dishes while I let the butter warm a bit in the bowl before mixing the crust. I used my favorite bread-making bowl for good luck!

I’ve always wanted to make really fancy designs on my crust, but decided to go with my traditional “star,” which really isn’t a star, but more of what I like to think of as fancy air vents. No matter, when I pulled it out of the oven, one of the vents caved, plus my lovely crimping fell! I was less than pleased with the appearance of the pie, since that was 25 percent of my score, but there was nothing I could do about it now. I like to think of it as a rustic pie!

My final "rustic" apple pie.

* * * * *

We rushed into town, joking if we got pulled over by Sheriff George, he could give us a police escort. I got to the table with just minutes to spare and was given Number 4, which I thought was a good sign, because my birthday is in April. We stopped by on occasion to scope out the rest of the competition. There ended up being seven in total, two had crumble crusts; mine, in my opinion, was the most authentic looking.

Alas, I wish I could tell you I ended up winning the first-place apron and blue ribbon, but I didn’t. They only awarded first place, but was told only one point separated first from second. A little disappointed, we walked back to the car, holding my head high, knowing at least those close to me think I make a good apple pie, and that I stepped out of my comfort zone to participate; you will never know the outcome if you don’t take the risk!

I think the next time I want to either make or eat an apple pie will be Thanksgiving!

Chris’s Best Ever Apple Pie

• 5-6 Cortland apples
• ⅓ cup plus 1 Tablespoon white sugar
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• A spritz of lemon juice
• 1 Tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg

• 2 cups white flour (King Arthur preferred)
• 2 stick of salted butter
• Dash of salt
• 5-6 Tablespoons ice water (more or less depending on how much you need, go by the feel of the crust)

For the filling, cut the apples into fourths, cut out the core, peel and slice and put into a large mixing bowl. (Sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll peel the entire apple, then cut and slice.) Add the sugar and cinnamon and mix.

With a pastry blender (my preference) or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles pebbles or grain. Add the dash of salt. Sprinkle three tablespoons of water into the crust, mix and keep adding water until everything comes together. Cut in half. Add flour to your counter or pastry cloth. Form a circle with the dough, and start rolling it out, one way, then turning in a circle. Once it’s completely rolled out, place it in a buttered pie dish. Add the apples, lemon, butter, and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Repeat with process with the top crust. (I put the top crust in the freezer while I was doing this, so it would be easier to work with.) Make some air vents toward the middle of the crust and crimp either with your fingers or a fork.

Bake a 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then 350 degrees for 30 minutes.