Summer Bucket List & Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries

When we were kids, we started each summer with a bucket list. One year, the raft test was the top goal. Once we’d perfected our strokes, there was the swim to the island. Climbing Kearsarge was on the list most years. After I started running, a run around the lake was de rigueur. On top of whatever athletic endeavors, there were books to read, a first beer to drink and maybe a blueberry pie to bake.

What’s on your summer bucket list this year? If you don’t have one, well, then it’s time to get one together! Not sure of what to put on it? Well then, may I suggest:

  1. Ride a zip line. You know you want to. Any number of New England ski resorts are adding summer fun to their playlist. A ride down the mountain on a zip line sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Make pickles. I rarely make jams or jellies and I’m not a canner. However, I do like to make refrigerator pickles. They are quick, easy and delicious.
  3. Rent a flashy sports car and drive to the coast for fried clams and beer. One of my longtime traditions is to have fried clams once a year. Summer is by far the best time to indulge. What could be better than a trip to the coast, a walk on the beach and dinner with a view.
  4. Pick some berries. Maybe you’ll spend a morning at the pick-your-own strawberry field, stop by the blueberry farm or visit the raspberry lady. If you’re lucky, you’ll time to pick all three. Be sure to make at least one pie, tart or cobbler this summer.
  5. Take a three-day tech vacation. No computer. No Facebook. No Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. No television. No gadgets. Just you, family and friends face to face real time.
  6. Start a new hobby, try a new craft or learn a new game. At least for three days, you’ll have plenty of time. Take a dance lesson and keep going. Try watercolors or calligraphy. Maybe this is the summer to discover, or re-discover, darts, billiards or mah jongg.
  7. Try paddle boarding. It turns out that kayaks are sooo yesterday. Who knew? Then again, paddle boarding has already been around for a few years. Maybe it too is passé. It’s hard to stay up to date.
  8. Run through the sprinkler and throw water balloons. Even in New England, we have soaring temperatures and plenty of humidity. If you can’t get to the beach, a sprinkler is the next best thing. A water balloon fight with your kids or grandkids is even better.
  9. Invent an exotic cocktail. Think of it as your reward for hiking to the top of whatever mountain or running however many miles every morning.
  10. Watch a movie in the backyard. No, you don’t need a giant television screen. Plug your laptop into a projector and pin a sheet onto the back of the garage. As for titles, think Top Gun, Jaws, Grease or that one with the dancing and Patrick Swayze. Don’t forget the popcorn and maybe one of those exotic cocktails.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Creamy Yogurt Tart with Fresh Strawberries
A creamy and delicious tart to start the summer. Enjoy!
Serves 8

3 cups plain yogurt
Graham Cracker Crust (recipe follows)
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 – 1/2 cup (to taste) honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved
Brown sugar to taste
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)

Put the yogurt in a colander or sieve lined with a clean dishtowel or coffee filter and drain for several hours or overnight. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of yogurt cheese.

Make the Graham Cracker Crust.

Make the Yogurt-Cream Cheese Filling: Put the cream cheese in a bowl, add the honey, vanilla, orange zest and salt and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. With the mixer on medium-low, add the yogurt a few spoonfuls at a time beat until smooth. Spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust and smooth the top. Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

Put the strawberries in a bowl and gently toss with brown sugar and Grand Marnier.

To serve: if you like, you can artfully arrange the berries in concentric circles on top of the tart, slice and serve. Alternatively, you can slice the tart and then top each piece with a spoonful of berries.

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a 9-inch glass pie plate and whisk with a fork to combine. Add the melted butter, mix until well combined and firmly press the crumbs into the pan. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 7 minutes and cool on a rack.

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One Year Ago – Berry Flag Cake
Two Years Ago – A Hint of Asia Barbecue Chicken or Pork
Three Years Ago – Potato Salad Niçoise
Four Years Ago – Grilled Scallop & Asparagus Salad
Five Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Six Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Seven Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Eight Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? Do you have a summer bucket list? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017


Ready for my Close-up with Blueberry Crisp

Sean_McDonaldI’m on WMUR’s Cook’s Corner again today at noon. After a cloudy-rainy Sunday (including a power outage at my house), the sun is shining. It’s not too late for a Labor Day celebration. Blueberry Crisp will put a sweet finish on your cookout. For my trip down to Cook’s Corner, I’ve added a bit of a kick to my old recipe. I’m using fresh ginger and plenty of lemon zest and juice. Enjoy!

blueberriesBlueberry Crisp
We’re at the tail end of the blueberry season in New Hampshire. Take advantage of the last beautiful berries. Visit a pick-your-own farm and bring home plenty for dessert tonight and lots more to freeze for the winter.
Serves 6-8

2 pints blueberries
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Crumble Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter a 2 quart baking dish or individual ramekins.

Put the blueberries, lemon zest and juice, ginger, sugars, cornstarch and cinnamon in a bowl and toss to combine. Pour the blueberries into the prepared baking dish(es). Evenly sprinkle topping over the blueberries.

Put the crisp on a baking sheet to catch any drips and slide into the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes or until the berries are bubbling and the top is golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

You can also bake the crisp early in the day and warm it up in a 275 degree oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

Crumble Topping
I always double (even triple) the recipe when I make topping. Use some immediately and put the remainder in the freezer for the next time(s). It’s great timesaver when you need a dessert at the last minute.

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch nutmeg
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and spices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the oatmeal and pulse until the topping comes together in little lumps.

A Long, Long Birthday Weekend Celebration & Chocolate-Orange Tart

mom_at_17Labor Day Weekend is a wonderful excuse for a celebration. Sure, the return to school and work is looming but for a few more days it’s summertime. Labor Day celebrations take on a particular significance in our family. Depending on the year, and this is one of them, my mother’s birthday falls at the start of the long holiday weekend. She has always done her best to celebrate her birthday with enthusiasm.

Then again, my mother pretty much does everything with enthusiasm. It is her gift to the world. That and her beautiful smile. Some people have a nice smile. Others have a lovely smile. My mother has a beautiful smile. In the days before her birthday we run around picking flowers, buying chocolates and tracking down special gifts. No matter what the gift, a bouquet of wild flowers or something a lot more elaborate, she rewards us with enthusiastic thanks and her beautiful smile. There is no energy shortage when it comes to that smile. It comes from the heart and lights up the entire room.

Nye_Family_CookoutFor years Mom managed to turn her birthday into a long, long weekend extravaganza. Forget a simple cake, one quart of ice cream was never enough. One party was never enough. Mom loves to bring people together. For four or five days she celebrated with a never ending round of lunches, dinners and cocktails. Family cookouts. Parties with friends. Romantic dinners with my dad. Lunch with the ladies. Cocktails on the beach. The list was long. Her birthday was the perfect excuse for one last grasp at summer fun.

Dreading a return to the suburbs and school, all the festivities were a welcome respite when we were kids. It’s still good fun. After all, who doesn’t love a birthday party? When you’re little, as long as there is cake and lemonade, it doesn’t really particularly matter if it’s your own or someone else’s birthday. And when you’re a bit older? Well, maybe you’d prefer a glass of chardonnay or pinot noir instead of lemonade. Sounds about right to me.

Nye_Family_Summer_2000You too can join the party. Celebrations start on Thursday, Mom’s actual birthday. It’s okay to jump in even earlier if you’d like. Throughout the long weekend, get together with family and friends. The possibilities are endless. A big breakfast on the porch. Mid-morning coffee and blueberry muffins at your favorite café. Lunch, drinks, dinner or a dance in the moonlight. While you are at it, raise your glass to birthdays, living life with enthusiasm and beautiful smiles.

Happy Birthday Mom and bon appétit!

Chocolate-Orange Tart
Chocolate is my mother’s favorite, what about you? For a bit of a change, this tart is a wonderfully rich alternative to a cake. Enjoy!
Serves 12-16Chocolate_Orange_Tart_02

Graham Cracker Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 10-inch tart or springform pan with parchment paper.

Put the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter and stir until well-blended.

Press the crumbs into bottom of the pan and about 1-1/2 inches up the side. Bake the crust at 350 degrees until golden, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate Filling
10 ounces very good dark chocolate, chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a small bowl. One minute at a time, zap the chocolate in the microwave on medium heat until the chocolate begins to melt.

Whisk the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and salt together in a 1-quart heavy saucepan. Whisk in the yolks and cream and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it registers 170 degrees on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl with the chocolate.

Let the chocolate sit with the hot custard for a few minutes to melt and whisk to combine. Whisk in the orange zest, orange liqueur and vanilla.

Pour the chocolate filling into the Graham Cracker Crust. Cool the tart to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Remove the tart from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. Cut into thin wedges (it’s very rich!), garnish with whipped cream and serve.

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One Year Ago – Chicken Liver Pâté
Two Years Ago – Blueberry Crisp
Three Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Sauce
Four Years Ago – Lemon Cupcakes
Five Years Ago – Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you celebrate your birthday? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013