Sweet Summertime

Ahhh…Summer! Without a doubt my favorite season. All year long I look forward to outdoor concerts, days spent by the pool, boating on the lake, and best of all, backyard picnics. Having grown up in a small town in western Pennsylvania we had a family picnic almost every weekend. Fried chicken and potato salad were always on the menu. As I have gotten older and my tastes have grown up a bit I prefer to stay away from the heavy mayonnaise based salads. Instead choose fresh seasonal veggies and hearty grains to make sensational summer salads.

Home grown green beans can be found at almost any farmers’ market or road side vegetable stand. I have great memories of helping my Grandma Pendleton with canning vegetables from her garden. Her dilly pickled green beans were out of this world even if it took a few weeks before they were ready to eat. A few years back a fellow chef taught me a “quick” pickle method. Bring equal parts water, vinegar and a little bit of sugar to a boil. Pour this mixture over fresh veggies in a heat safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Pickled yumminess in no time at all. Although fried chicken happens to be number 2 on my all-time favorite food list, frying chicken in the kitchen on a hot summer day… way! My simple recipe for Fresh herb and honey roasted chicken drumsticks hits the spot.

Now what to drink? Hmmm…I’ve got it! Vanilla bean lemonade. This stuff is life changing and so simple to whip up. Serve it over lots of ice, with a splash or two of vodka or rum and you have the perfect summer cocktail.

My husband and I continue my family’s weekly picnic tradition. We even use my Nana and Papa Brown’s picnic basket and blanket.
We turn off our phones, bring a good book and play some relaxing tunes. A good life is all about being with those you love and making memories. I hope you get to enjoy these recipes and have a wonderful summer!

Fresh Herb & Honey Glazed Roasted Chicken Drumsticks

4-5 pound of fresh chicken drumsticks (patted dry) 1⁄4 Cup good olive oil
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 Tablespoon fresh ground pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup of coarsely chopped fresh herbs (thyme, Italian pars- ley, basil, and scallions are my favorite)
1⁄4 cup organic honey

Pre heat oven 450 degrees. Place chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Coat chicken well and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes. Turn chicken after first 20 minutes. When chicken is finished cooking place in a bowl with fresh herbs and honey. Toss to coat. Chicken can be served immedi- ately or chill for 2-3 hours.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

1 lb. of fresh green beans
1 large red onion thinly sliced
8 cups of water
4 cups of red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Fresh chopped Italian parsley
1⁄2 tablespoon of kosher salt and pepper

Bring water, vinegar, and sugar to a boil. Place green beans and onions in large glass bowl. Pour water/vinegar mixture over beans and onions. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Drain bean mixture, place back in bowl and add lemon zest, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Caprese Barley Salad

4 cups of cooked barley (I use the quick cook type)
2 cups of sliced fresh mozzarella balls
2 cups of quartered multi-colored grape or cherry tomatoes
1⁄4 cup of chopped fresh basil
1⁄2 cup good olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 tablespoon kosher salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl place olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Whisk to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Garnish with some fresh basil leaves.

Vanilla Bean Lemonade

1⁄2 gallon organic lemonade
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract 1 vanilla bean sliced open and scraped

Add vanilla extract and scrapings from vanilla bean to lemonade, whisk to incorporate. Refrigerate for 1 hour.