Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 2015

This is the time of year when a little rain now and then makes all of the plants and flowers blossom as if they lived in a tropical climate.  It's hard to believe in a few months this landscape will look entirely different.

Our summer vacation this year was Montreal, Quebec and Vermont.  We put off this trip for years.  Chris decided to go up through Vermont to Montreal.  We found no traffic at all on the way up.  We stopped and took a break to have lunch in St. Albans, VT which is close to the border.  This is a great little cafe in the center of town. 

This is the view approaching Montreal.

The first day we looked around the city and then got busy going to see all the sites.  One of them was a stop at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  I LOVE monkeys so this is one of my favorite exhibits.

Notre Dame

Typical photo of the streets of Montreal.

The food was delicious.  The servers in Canada are professional, well paid and it's their career so we experienced fantastic service all the way through.  The shopping is great.  We could have spent a lot more than a day at the underground mall.  We hit the jackpot on all counts except the calories!

Entering the gate leading to the Old City.

Le Chateau Frontenac is one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever seen.  Inside is just as gorgeous!

A ride down the Funiculaire to the old city.

This part of Quebec was crazy busy but the rest of the city was surprisingly quiet.  I guess every tourist who comes here is here.

Beautiful art and architecture abound all the way through.

The views are breathtaking.

The French Canadian people we met were wonderful.  Both Chris and I took French in high school.  We prepped for our trip to France years ago and thought we would be rusty for this trip but we did just fine.  All you have to do is greet everyone in French and try a little and they will automatically go with your cue and speak to you in the language you prefer.  They even treat their cats well!

We came home to an abundance of fresh native tomatoes and peaches.  I love this time of year but unfortunately it's way too short.  As soon as the first frost comes it's all over and those hothouse tomatoes in the store are nothing compared to home grown.

My mom used to make squash flower patties.  I never tried to make them but I came across these flowers a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try.  I was never interested in cooking when I lived home but I was always in and out of the kitchen when my mom was cooking.  Somehow through osmosis I remembered this recipe.

My mom was a really good cook.  However, she didn't follow intricate recipes.  She made everything from scratch and used native fruits and veggies when she could.  She would be called a "purist" today.  My style of cooking is very much the same.  There is no recipe for these patties but you really can't go wrong.  Wash and drain the blossoms a few times in cold water and then cut them into small pieces.  In a bowl, add 1 to 2 eggs depending on how may flowers you have.  Add grated cheese, fresh chopped parsley, salt, pepper and flour.  Stir everything.  The key to judging if the batter is ready for frying is if the consistency is like thick pancake batter.  I never fry anything but I have grapeseed oil on hand just in case.  This oil is very light and doesn't burn food.  Let the patties get nice and brown on one side and then flip them and do the same on the other.  When you take them out of the pan put them on a paper towel to get the excess oil off.  They're wonderful the next day too.  If my mom had left over cooked cauliflower or asparagus she made these patties and Chris' father made these patties with canned corn.  I'm sure there are a lot more variations.  Nothing beats these in the summer with a glass of cold white wine.

We always have fresh strawberries in the fridge and some of them were getting over ripe so I asked Kristen to bake something using them.  She found this recipe and again it's a keeper.  On a hot night sitting outside these tasted amazing.  If Labor Day is as hot as the past few weeks this will be our dessert!

Strawberry Lemonade Bars

by averiecooks.com

Strawberry Lemonade Bars - Imagine crossing lemon bars with a strawberry pie. These easy bars taste like strawberry lemonade! Sooo good!
There’s a creamy, sweet, lemony filling that tops the crust, which gives the bars a soft 

Bars that taste like strawberry lemonade are even better than drinking it. The bars are what you'd get if you crossed a crumble-topped strawberry pie with a lemon bar. They're sweet from the strawberries with some tart lemon flavor that peeks through. They're soft, juicy, satisfying, and the crust mixture does double duty as the crumble topping. There’s a creamy, sweet, lemony filling that tops the crust, which gives the bars a soft but dense texture. The strawberries soften and release their juices while baking and help the bars stay moist. I used a combination of fresh and frozen strawberries and added flour to the strawberry layer. You may not if you’re baking exclusively with fresh berries. Baking time will vary based on if your berries are fresh, frozen, and how juicy they are. Between the firm crust, soft filling, juicy strawberries, fragrant lemon zest, and sandy crumbles, there are so many wonderful textures and flavors in every bite.

YIELD: one 8x8 pan, 9 to 12 generous squares

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME: about 60 to 75 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 3+ hours, for cooling and setting up


Crust and Crumble Topping
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt; or sour cream (lite is okay)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Strawberry Layer
2 heaping cups diced strawberries (fresh or frozen; I used a combo)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (or 1/2 cup if berries are sour)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, or to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
up to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (if using fresh berries, you may not need any flour, and if using frozen berries you likely will need 2 tablespoons)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside. Lining the pan will really help with cleanup and is recommended.
  2. Crust and Crumble Topping - In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Add the sugars and whisk to combine.
  4. And the flour, optional salt, and stir to combine. Mixture will be very dry and sandy with some larger, well-formed crumble pieces.
  5. Set a heaping 3/4 cup crumble mixture aside.
  6. Transfer remaining mixture to prepared pan, and using a spatula or your fingers, hard-pack the mixture to create an even, smooth, flat crust; set aside.
  7. Filling - In a medium bowl, add the egg, Greek yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and whisk to combine or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth.
  8. Add the flour and whisk to combine or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth.
  9. Evenly pour filling over the crust and jiggle pan to help distribute it or smooth it with a spatula; set aside.
  10. Strawberry Layer - In a separate medium bowl, add all filling ingredients except flour and toss to combine.
  11. Evaluate mixture and if it's very thin, runny, soupy, or liquidy, add up to 2 tablespoons flour to help thicken it. If using fresh berries, you may not need any flour. Because I used half fresh and half frozen berries, I needed 2 tablespoons flour because my mixture was thin and soupy.
  12. Evenly distribute strawberry mixture over the filling, smoothing it lightly with a spatula.
  13. Evenly sprinkle with the reserved heaping 3/4 cup crust mixture. Before sprinkling, I squeeze the mixture in my palm to encourage bigger crumble pieces to form.
  14. Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes (place pan on a cookie sheet for insurance against overflow if your pan is quite full), or until edges are bubbling quite vigorously and there's some bubbling in the center. Crumble topping should appear set and very pale golden. I used some frozen berries and the pan was very cold going into the oven and the strawberry layer was quite runny; I baked for 72 minutes. If using fresh berries, baking time will be reduced, likely right at the 60 minute mark, but start checking at 50 minutes. Watch your bars, not the clock, when evaluating doneness. Place pan on a wire rack and allow bars to cool for at least 2 hours (overnight is even better) before slicing and serving. After cooling overnight, I placed pan in the fridge 2 hours before slicing to ensure clean, neat cuts. If you try to slice bars before they've cooled completely, they'll be extremely messy and could fall apart. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, in the fridge for up to 10 days (they're good slightly chilled if you like chilled pie and I store them in the fridge), or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Soon I'll be off on another adventure!  I haven't had very much time to work on hobbies this summer but I'll be back in September to share some really good things!

Thanks for visiting!  Happy Labor Day and I'll see you in September!!

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