Summer days

I am now beginning my summer vacation and could not be more content. I know that teachers get teased because they get so much time off...but I swear that if there wasn't a summer break, there wouldn't be any teachers.

I'm extremely passionate about teaching and truly love each and every student I have in my class...but by the time June hits, I'm SO ready for some space before I turn into "scary teacher". It's nice to have some time to myself, but by the second week of August, I start itching to teach again!

So now I am spending my days doing exactly what I wish and loving every minute of it. I've been going through some of the summer issues of my favorite food magazines. As usual, Everyday Food Magazine has caught my eye and I've been using some of their ideas to create little bits of wonderfulness. The following two recipes come from the July/August 2010 issue.

Stone Fruit Compote
~This is perfect for spreading on toast or topping yogurt~

  • 2 1/4 cups (3/4 lbs) stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, or plums
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • pinch of course salt
  • 3 tbsp water
  • a flavor combination such as 1 star anise and 2 allspice berries OR 1 small cinnamon stick and 1 wide strip of lemon zest (I used a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and the strip of lemon zest)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the fruit is soft (8-12 minutes).
  2. Remove the lemon zest strip and/or cinnamon stick (if you used that flavor combination).
  3. Transfer to a pint size jar and let cool (I used a canning jar). Once it's cool, you can put the lid on it and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. This chunky spread can be put on toast with ricotta cheese or over some plain yogurt. I imagine it would be great over ice cream, too!
Couscous Salad with Black Beans, Mushrooms, and Corn
~This meat-less meal is filling and delicious~

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (you can use regular couscous or orzo pasta, too)
  • course salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • 1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno (optional, but delicious in it) thinly sliced (I chopped it)
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add couscous and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown and fragrant (about 4 minutes).
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups water, season with salt, and bring got a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender (about 15 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add 1 tsp oil to the skillet and cook the scallion whites and corn, stirring occasionally, until scallions are soft and corn is browned (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and then add to the mushrooms.
  5. Add couscous, black beans, lime juice, jalapeno (if using), and scallion greens to the mushroom mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve with avocado slices on top. (I actually added some crumbled tortilla chips on top and it was a the perfect salty companion to the salad)
For me, summer days are all about relaxing, enjoying the fresh produce of the season, and doing the things that I love. Cooking is definitely at the top of that list!

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