“It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine, it’s Summertime! Sweet Summertime!” –Kenny Chesney
There are so many joys of summer: swimming in the pool, digging your toes in the sand at the beach, swinging on a rope and dropping into a clear, cool lake, heading into the woods with your family in your RV, or family fun at an amusement park— there is so much to enjoy about summer!
One of my favorite joys of summer are the vegetables that are at their best in the warm summer months like summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn on the cob, and fresh herbs of all kinds. I love a good farmer’s market or the blessings of a neighbor’s good will and overly abundant garden for fresh vegetables. In a pinch, even the grocery store gets better produce options in the summer! I love to cook and the fresh summer ingredients certainly help me to make yummy, healthy summer eats.
One of our favorite summer meals is Grilled Bruschetta Pizza. This summer, we grew our own Cherry Tomato and basil plants specifically to make this recipe. Thankfully, our plants did not disappoint! We’ve also been blessed by our neighbor’s garden with an abundance of sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes of yellow, orange and red. I’ve made a lot of Bruschetta and we are making the best pizza this girl and her guy can ask for.
If you like a flavorful, light summer dinner, Grilled Bruschetta Pizza is a great recipe to try. It’s easy to make at home or take with you on an RV trip.
The Star: What Tomatoes Work Best
While this summer, we have enjoyed the sweet Cherry tomatoes that we’ve grown, Roma tomatoes are a good option as well. Use your favorite tomato but a sweet, fresh tomato variety makes this recipe a delight. Tomatoes have a lot of liquid inside them when you cut them so I always squeeze the liquid and the seeds out and then chop them into small bites.
The Co-star: Roasted Garlic
Depending on how you feel about garlic, you should know that when you roast it, it gets sweet and mild and it really shines in this recipe. To start, I roast the garlic earlier in the day to allow it time to cook and cool so it’s ready when I’m ready to put the Bruschetta together. To roast the garlic, peel away any loose layers of the garlic head skin. Cut the top of the garlic bulb off to expose some of the cloves. On a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle the cut garlic with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Lightly fold the foil around the garlic and place it into a 400 degree toaster oven or conventional oven for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the garlic bulb. I always check it when I start to smell the garlic cooking, testing it with a fork. The garlic should be fork tender. Allow the garlic to cool completely and then pop the garlic out of the head and chop. YUM!
I recommend roasting two heads of garlic. I find that, for us, one head is not enough for this recipe and while two heads might be too much, the remainder of the roasted garlic can be used in other recipes that you might use garlic in and it can be saved in your refrigerator for a few days for later use.
The Supporting Cast: Pizza Crust
You should know that I struggle with yeast and dough. As a result, I avoid any recipe with yeast. If you are a Yeast Guru, then make your own crust! (Lucky Duck!) The cool thing is that you can make this part how you wish and the pizza crust options are up to you and the preferences of those you’re feeding! We have used Naan, fresh pizza dough (from the pop-can in the biscuit section of the grocery store, cooked on the grill), and pre-made crusts of all kinds. We like the crust to be thin and crispy so the Bruschetta becomes the star of the show.
Grilled Bruschetta Pizza
Sweet, fresh tomatoes like Roma or cherry tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 Red Onion or Sweet Onion, finely diced
1-2 Roasted heads of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Mozzarella, shredded or in chunks (whatever your preference). Mozzarella is a mild but gooey melted cheese and doesn’t mask the other flavors. It plays well within this recipe.
Pizza Crust of choice
How to make it
Roast the garlic in advance so it is cooked and cooled when you are ready to assemble the Bruschetta-see tips above.
Prep your ingredients. Chop the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and julienne the basil and place in a bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle lightly with sale and pepper.
Combine gently all ingredients with a spoon.
Shred or cube the cheese in tiny cubes.
Spoon the Bruschetta over the pizza crust and top with cheese.
Carefully place pizza on a pre-heated grill on medium heat. If you are working on a grill, cover. Grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Slice and enjoy!
This might be a great summer recipe but let me assure you that when we are deep in January with temperatures outside dipping below freezing and we are missing summer most, this is still a recipe I go to when I really miss the warmth of summer. In the winter, the pizza can be placed on a cookie sheet and popped into the oven at 400 degrees until the cheese is melted and the pizza is hot. It’s a great hint of summer just when you need one.
I hope you enjoy this simple taste of summer, anytime of the year!
“Life is better when you add fresh air, a warm campfire, bright stars and s’mores.” —Unknown
Whether you’ve had them as a Girl or Boy Scout, over a grill in your back yard or over a fire on a camping trip, a S’more is a marvelously simple and delectable treat! I loved them as a child and still adore them as an adult. I hate the idea of a hot coals in a grill or fire going to waste when there are S’mores of all kinds to be made and enjoyed and the simple ingredients are perennials in my pantry.
S’more are fun for kids of all ages and while the original version sparked our love, let me help you to think outside the box and make your next cookout dessert one that everyone will talk about! To that end, I am dedicating an entire blog to the beloved humble S’more and several of the variations I have come to love.
You know it! It’s the version of S’mores that you fell in love with as a kid. Roast a soft, fluffy marshmallow on a stick over an open, smoky fire, or right over some red-hot charcoal left over from the grilled dinner and you have the star of the show. Sandwich your toasty treat between two pieces of graham crackers together with a piece of a chocolate bar and Viola! There you have it. Simple, sweet, gooey, messy, and if you’re not licking your fingers when you’re done, you didn’t do it right! Do it again!
Fudge Striped Cookie S’mores
Roast your marshmallow and sandwich it between two fudge striped cookies. This one can’t get any easier to make.
Ritz Cracker S’mores
To me, there is nothing better than a salty-sweet combination. Roast your marshmallow and sandwich it between two Ritz Crackers. With this option, I’ve used a chocolate bar and a peanut butter cup as my sources of sweet. The peanut butter cup is delicious! In fact, there is a thin version of peanut butter cups now that are great for this version. This is my go-to favorite and I make sure to have the supplies for this version on every camping trip we take!
This is a fun version for the whole family or a group of friends. Set up a “buffet” of ice cream cones and any filling you can imagine to fill the cones. To build your cones, you’ll need, well, cones. We opted for sugar cones to experiment. Next time, and what I would suggest, is a larger waffle cone so you have more room for your goodies!
Start with mini marshmallows in the bottom of your cone (not too many to start). Layer in other fillings such as strawberries, raspberries, or bananas. Make sure to mix in your chocolate too along with more marshmallows. For the chocolate, consider chocolate chips, Rolos, or my favorite, peanut butter cups.
My favorite combo was a peanut butter cup, banana, and marshmallows. YUM!
Wrap your cones loosely in aluminum foil and place over your hot coals. It only takes a few minutes to melt your chocolate and marshmallows and warm your cone, which is what you’re after. If your heat source is really hot, be careful not to leave it on too long or you will burn the cone.
NOTE: With kids participating, adults should handle the hot wrapped cones and the goodies inside will be very hot so care should be taken when taking the first bite.
This was a July 4th treat for our friends and this option is definitely fun for a group. My friends were happy to participate in this test for the blog! (Thanks guys!)
Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees. Over a low flame, heat a small cast Iron skillet, melting 1/2 tablespoon of butter in the bottom and sides of the skillet. When the butter is melted, turn off the heat. I used enough chocolate bars to cover the bottom of the skillet but you can use chocolate chips if you prefer. Top with mini marshmallows. In the preheated oven, toast the dip for 5-6 minutes or until the marshmallows are toasted. Serve right away, placing the skilled on a trivet. Dip pretzels, crackers, or graham crackers into the dip and enjoy!
Note: Be sure kids know that the skillet will be very hot. It might be a good idea to spoon the S’mores goodness onto a plate if there is a concern.
There are endless combinations to the beloved S’more. I plan to continue to experiment and hope to find more versions I can share with you in another blog soon! I mean, this is the best research for a blog EVER!
If you have a favorite version you think I should try, oh yeah, and blog about, be sure to reach out!
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” –Julia Child
We love to cook and eat outside when we travel with our RV. For us, it’s a requirement when we’re camping.
This is especially so in the warm summer months since cooking in our RV makes the rig a bit warm, just like cooking in my home kitchen heats up the house. For us, cooking outside is part of the fun. As someone that likes to cook and eat good food, it’s a “challenge accepted” as we started to plan for our most recent adventure into the woods.
One of the most simple recipes that we love and I think is tons of fun over the fire is Nachos. They are easy to make and customize to your taste. Below, I’ve used ground beef for my protein but you can use chicken too if so desired.
My Nacho recipe
One pound lean ground beef; browned until no longer pink and drained
Any Shredded Cheese you wish. We used a sharp white cheddar. TIP: grate your own cheese. Pre-grated cheese has an ingredient called cellulose–or WOOD PULP–to prevent clumping. EWWW! Having a sensitive tummy, I choose to skip that unwanted ingredient and grate all of my own cheese. (No judgement here if you don’t have time to grate your own.)
Toppings of any kind: onions, black beans, green onions (scallions), jalapenos, sour cream, avocado, salsa, etc…
I haven’t purchased the store packets of taco seasonings for years. To take control of the salt and nix all the preservatives, making my own feels like a tiny bit more of the healthy way to go for tacos, nachos, or anything else I’d like to give a spicy kick to. It only takes a little time and when I make a batch, I double or triple the measurements below and store it in an airtight container so I have some ready to go for next time.
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon of each; garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (to your taste)
1 teaspoon of black pepper
I mix mine directly in the container I will store my seasoning in. With all the ingredients in and top on, just give it a shake to combine.
To the ground beef that you’ve browned and drained and depending on how spicy you want your meat to be, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the seasoning mix to the beef (I usually stick to 2 tablespoons so I don’t set our mouths on fire). Also add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of water and a 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (again, if you choose a spicy salsa, stick to the two tablespoons of seasonings–or not!). Simmer the meat until nearly all of the liquid is cooked off. At this point, you can make tacos with your meat but this time, we used it for nachos!
Assembling the Nachos
We cooked our meat over the fire in a cast iron skillet. When the meat was ready, we scooped it out into a bowl, wiped the pan clean, and started to assemble our nachos. I’ve seen other recipes that are assembled in disposable aluminum casserole containers, which could work as well.
We started with a single layer of chips, covering the bottom of the skillet. We added an even layer of our meat and other ingredients we like in our nachos. This is the creative part so add any ingredients that you love. Since it’s just the two of us, we stopped here. This was a hearty meal for the two of us since my cast iron skillet is BIG! However, for heartier appetites or big families, you can continue to add layers of chips, meat, and toppings to the top of your skillet or if using one, your disposable aluminum pan. Be sure that cheese is your last, or top layer.
Once assembled, cover with aluminum foil and head back to your fire. We used a bit of a direct/indirect heat just to warm the chips and melt the cheese. TIP: as you assemble, try to leave a little room between your last layer of cheese and your aluminum cover so the cheese doesn’t stick to the aluminum.
We topped ours with sour cream but you can use tomatoes, salsa, avocado or guacamole, lettuce, etc… Think of it as a deconstructed taco and go wild!
YUM! A dash of fresh air just makes it all taste even more wonderful.
I’d love to hear what variations you might use for our next trip into the woods!
“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” -James Beard
Travel can expand your mind through art, architecture, culture, and the people that you meet. While all of that is worth buying a ticket and packing a bag, I can assure you that your travel memories will be most firmly cemented in your mind around the food you eat. Some of the most spectacular food we have had when traveling has left us wanting more!
Let’s see if I can get your mouth watering! These are my top ten foodie moments from our travels:
Honorable mention-The Spice House, Chicago, Illinois. Find them at http://www.thespicehouse.com. The Spice House is a vibrant, aromatic shop with rubs, salts, extracts, and spices. They have been highlighted in Eating Well, Taste of Home, Food & Wine, bon apptéit, Condê Nast, and Real Simple, to name a few. The Spice House was a food tour discovery for me. While there, they took us into the store and out into a delightful garden at the back of the property. There, we learned from the experts about the different types of cinnamon. Cinnamon is cinnamon, right? OH NO! With my eyes open to different spices and how they can enhance my cooking, I have faithfully ordered from them since 2012 and I love the quality and freshness of their spices.
Vienna, Austria: Schnitzel at Figlmüller. Find them at http://www.figlmueller.at/en/wollzeile/. Recommended to us by our Concierge on our Viking River Ship, we left our tour for the day and tracked down this cozy, traditional restaurant hidden deep in the city. Figlmüller is referred to as the “Home of the Schnitzel” and since 1905, they have been serving expertly crafted Viennese specialties. Genuine Schnitzel is crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside and serve with a warm, vinegar based potato salad. What a treat!
Maine: Naked Lobster Rolls. When in Maine, I try to eat Lobster in any form, as often as possible! My favorite is a Lobster Roll. I recommend the “naked” version (no mayonnaise). Mainers know how to do lobster right!
Rome, Italy: Gelato at the Trevi Fountain, Il Melograno (my favorite was tiramisu). Find them at Piazza di Trevi, 101, 00187 Roma RM, Italy. Gelato in Italy can’t be beat. Eating it at the Trevi Fountain….was a pure joy!
Naples, Italy: Sfogliatella (Lobster Tail Pastry). This lovely morsel is a shell shaped filled Italian pastry. It’s very thin, leaf layers were delightfully crunchy and they held a slightly sweet ricotta filling. This culinary treat was the courtesy of our guide who took us to a very crowded pastry shop and we stood outside and fell in love with this wonderful Italian treat with every bite!
Scotland and England; Sticky Toffee Pudding at St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland & Eaton Mess in Durham, England. I have a sweet tooth. Being a huge fan of the British Baking Show, I was determined to eat all things British that I have seen on the show. The two I had the opportunity to eat on our Scotland/England trip was Sticky Toffee Pudding and Eaton Mess. Equally heavenly, I dream of these two delectable desserts often!
New Orleans, Louisiana: Beignets at Café Du Monde. Find them at http://www.cafedumond.com. If you are ever in New Orleans, you must try the Beignets of Café Du Monde. A NOLA tradition, these heavenly donut-like pastries shouldn’t be missed. They are covered in powered sugar so care should be taken. No matter what you are wearing, you will inevitably and delightfully be covered in sugar. TIP: wear light colors!
Waco, Texas: Lavender Donut Holes, Magnolia Table; Grilled Cheese, Cheddar Box, Gourmet Grilled Cheese Food Truck on the grounds of Magnolia Silos; Brown Butter Ice Cream, Heritage Creamery. There was no shortage of yummy things to eat when we visited Waco. Of course, the main focal point of our trip to Waco was the Magnolia Silos so the wonderful food was a delight.
**BREAKFAST: We started one of our days at Magnolia Table. Find them at http://www.magnolia.com. They only serve my favorite meal of the day. Breakfast. For me, the highlight was the delicate and complex Lemon Lavender Donut Holes. Don’t wrinkle your nose! (I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too). They did not taste of potpourri or soap at all. They are lemon, floral, and sweet all at once. Try them! You won’t be sorry!
**LUNCH: On the campus of Magnolia Silos, you can choose from any number of food trucks for a quick bite to eat. For us, that was the humble Grilled Cheese at the Cheddar Box Food Truck. Find them at http://www.cheddarboxwaco.com.Crunchy and cheesy, it met our expectations of one of our favorite comfort foods and we paired our sandwiches with Iced tea from another food truck, Alabama Sweet Tea, which was served ice cold in a reusable mason jar. Very Texas!
**TREATS: I hope that it goes without saying that the Magnolia property is best known for it’s bakery. Serving cupcakes, cookies, and cinnamon rolls…we wanted them ALL! But also, not to be missed is the small batch, hand made Ice cream at Heritage Creamery that you can find not far away just off the campus of Baylor University. Find them at http://www.heritagecreamery.com. This ice cream is creamy, flavorful, and scrumptious! As an ice cream enthusiast, this is top notch, hand made ice cream that you will fall in love with when you take your first spoonful. You can’t get ice cream like this from a grocery store. We loved it so much, we visited twice while we were in Waco. Heritage Creamery sources their ingredients locally and their flavors reflect the season and ingredients available to them. They have unusual hours so be sure to check them out on line as you plan your trip. Don’t miss it if you have a chance to visit Waco.
Galway, Ireland, Rathbaun Farm: home made Irish Soda Bread, Salad, and Hot tea. Find them at http://www.rathbaunfarm.com. An Irish Sheep Farm, Rathbaun Farm was a chance to see the art of sheep farming in Ireland first hand. It was also a lunch stop. We were served the simplest and most delicious of lunches. It was a damp, rainy day so the fresh, warm Irish Soda Bread and tea were soothing and delicious. We felt welcomed and at home. Proof that a simple meal is often all you need to sooth your soul. Time spent on the farm was a wonderful addition to our trip and we did not go away hungry.
Key West, Florida: Glazed Donuts. Find them at http://www.glazeddonuts.com. Saving the very best for last and speaking of soothing the soul…Glazed Donuts is the Southernmost donut shop that makes fresh delights that this Travel Addict adores. We have been known to plan a trip to Key West around as many visits to this delightful place as possible. “Right in the heart of Old Town Key West, Florida, ” Glazed Donuts “is the donut shop you dreamt of as a kid.” I would say that this adult dreams of it often! Be aware that when they sell out for the day, they make no more for the day. For that reason, we always go early. They are also closed on Mondays so be sure to plan appropriately so you don’t miss out!
So. When you travel, how do you know where the yummy eats might be?
Take a food tour
Think of a food tour as just that, a tour. An excursion of sorts. It can be a fun way to meet people, immerse yourself in the local culinary scene, and give you an idea of great places to go back to eat if your tour is early in your trip.
We took our first food tour in Chicago. Our friends that live outside the city wanted us to have a taste of all things Chicago and this tour was not for the faint of heart! We had deep dish pizza, Rueben sandwiches, chocolates, oils and vinegars, and an introduction to my favorite supplier of spices, The Spice House (if you like freshly ground spices, this is the place! I have bought nearly all of my spices from them-through the mail-since 2012). Thank goodness this was a walking tour!
A few months later, as we planned a trip to Ashville, North Carolina with friends for a long weekend visit to The Biltmore Estate, we decided to try another food tour. In Asheville, we tasted Devils on Horseback, local chocolates and wines, Gourmet popcorn, and Italian main courses. Again, thank goodness for the walking part of the tour!
Our most recent food tour was while visiting Bar Harbor, Maine. This tour included local blueberry soda, gourmet French fries, blueberry and caramel pop corn, lobster rolls, coffee, several Irish pub appetizers, and a vinegar and oil tasting.
A food tour vendor will have relationships with some of the best restaurants and shops in town. We have observed that the food tours have been small businesses supporting each other and it gives you a great community experience. A great food tour will offer some really great food and drinks (some offer adult beverages) mixed with some sight seeing between the biggest food items. We used Trip Advisor to find our food tour in Maine and based on some delicious bites on our tour, we went back to one of the restaurants for dinner later that evening.
If a food tour sounds like fun, I would recommend planning one at the beginning of your trip. Finding a yummy place to eat early on can give you spots to return to for subsequent meals and if you enjoy supporting local businesses when you travel, which I recommend, this is a great way to do just that.
Ask a local
Who better to ask for recommendations on the best food and drink in town than a local? A native will likely steer you to an eatery that is frequented by locals and might be a bit off the beaten path of the tourist mobs.
On more than one occasion, we have eaten where the locals have pointed in Key West, Florida. One specific local was a U.S. Custom’s Agent that had come on board the cruise ship we were getting off of to check our re-entry into the U.S. He lived in Key West and was kind enough to recommend El Sibooney Restaurant on Catherine Street which serves traditional Cuban home cooking. Delish! Thank you to our Custom’s Agent friend!
We’ve never had a local steer us wrong.
Research before you go
Sometimes knowing what the local specialty might be for your destination is a great place to start. When in Rome, right? Trip Advisor, locals, and just simple web searches can point you to good local food or specialties that you might want to try.
One very memorable research that we took advantage of was during the same cruise mentioned earlier that stopped in to Key West. Before getting off of the ship, my husband did a quick search on places to eat in Key West. He found an article that had a list. Of course, the one listed spot that jumped out at him was Glazed Donuts on Eaton Street. OMG!!! If you love a FANTASTIC donut and you’re in Key West or thinking about going that direction, this has to be on your list of places to go. God bless Glazed Donuts! Since that discovery, we have been known to plan a trip to Key West around grabbing a donut (or two) at Glazed Donuts. They ARE that good!
My Husband and I are always afraid that we’ll fall in love with something yummy in our travels that we can never have again. And while that is likely to happen, eating with the locals or trying a regional cuisine has always enhanced our travels, given us great food porn (what we call it when we photograph our food), and given us another experience to remember. Each trip has had it’s own distinct food that has made us story tellers!