Sunday, October 31, 2010

Perfect Pancakes

Growing up, I never cared much for pancakes.  I think that might have had something to do with the fact that the only kind of pancakes I ever had came from a box of Bisquick.  No offense to my mom (or anyone else who prefers boxed pancake mixes), but I think these homemade pancakes taste way better than ones from a box (and are nearly just as easy to throw together as any coming from a "Mr. Hungry Jack" or "Aunt Jemima").  They're light and fluffy with a hint of sweetness from the vanilla.  And should I mention again how easy they are (I bet you have all the ingredients just sitting in your pantry right now!)???  In fact, this recipe is even simple enough for a weekday.  Or, you can do like we do (because we rarely have our act together on days we need to be out of the house early) and make a double batch on the weekend and then microwave the leftovers right out of the fridge (or freezer). You will rarely see a four year old as happy as when he can have pancakes just about any morning he wants!).  

Perfect Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
butter for greasing the griddle

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (or on a piece of waxed paper--it saves dishes and you can pull up the sides to "funnel" into the wet ingredients later).  In another bowl, combine milk, eggs, oil and vanilla.  Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir with a wire whisk just enough to combine thoroughly.  Heat a griddle over medium high heat.  When hot, quickly run a stick of butter over the surface to grease the griddle (just enough butter to coat the surface). Pour approximately 1/4 cup-fulls of batter onto griddle.  Allow to cook for about 2 minutes or until edges become dry and bubbles are formed on top of pancake.  Flip and allow to brown on the other side.  Serve hot with warm maple syrup.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cornbread Dressing Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've been on a serious corn bread making spree lately.  With the changing weather, there have been several batches of corn bread turned out to accompany all the  chili and other Southwestern-style soups I've been inspired to make.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, in this case), that has meant lots of leftover cornbread. 

Even with Jay enjoying some of the leftovers in a bowl with milk, I still had plenty to spare.  Trying to be economical, I just threw the leftover chunks in the freezer and when I had enough, I was excited to try out this recipe for stuffed squash.  I had seen it in one of my favorite Cooking Light cookbooks.  We had it as a meatless main dish for dinner the other night, but I think it would make a really beautiful accompaniment to Thanksgiving, especially if you have a vegetarian at your table!

I think my boys would say they would have been happy without the squash (they don't like squash anyway, so I don't know if they're the best ones to ask.  I personally thought it was a great combination), but everyone agreed that the cornbread dressing was a hit.  If you're wanting to skip a step and share my family's opinion about squash, you might just do the dressing as a side dish.

Corn Bread Dressing Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash (about 1 pound each)
4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) leftover cornbread (see recipe below)
non stick cooking spray
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced carrot
1 cup finely diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth for a not entirely vegetarian option)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or chopped toasted pecans
salt and pepper to taste

Spread corn bread cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning twice or until cornbread is toasted.  Set aside.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Cut squash in half and scrape out seeds.  Coat squash with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, face down in a baking dish for 20 minutes.  Set aside.

Pour boiling water over dried cranberries and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Drain water.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes.  Add celery, carrot, garlic and poultry seasoning.  Saute 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add cornbread cubes, cranberries and broth to skillet and toss to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture into halved squash (about 1 1/2 cups of dressing per squash).  Arrange stuffed side up in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until squash is tender (a tip of a knife will pierce the squash easily) and dressing is browned.

My Favorite Cornbread Recipe (inspired by Betty Crocker)
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter butter, divided
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 3 tablespoons butter in a baking dish (round cake pan-size, or a square 8x8 size, or a cast iron skillet).  Allow butter to melt in dish (watch closely so it doesn't burn) while preparing corn bread batter. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Beat milk and egg in a large bowl with a beater.  Melt remaining butter and stir into wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Remove pan from the oven and swirl butter around the sides to make sure the pan is evenly greased.  Pour prepared batter into the baking dish (preheating the dish and melting the butter will make for a really fantastic buttery crust after it's baked!).  Spread evenly in the dish and return to the oven baking for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Serve warm if desired or let cool to cube for the dressing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken

A whole chicken cooked in a crock pot.  Ok, I realize that this isn't the most revolutionary idea in the world.  I guess I was just late to the party.  I had certainly known of chicken cooked in a crock pot (makes me think of our dear friends, the Hamers, and how they cooked their boneless, skinless chicken breasts for one of their signature dishes, "Chicken Crescent Rolls," mmm...).  But a whole chicken? Unbelievable!

I think the concept is so simple and fantastic, I had to share.  The benefits are many: easiest preparation in the world (just throw the seasoned chicken into the pot and come back hours later to a tender juicy bird with the meat just falling off the bones), it's extremely economical (whole chickens are usually very inexpensive--I happened to get my five pound chicken for $.49 a pound and you can get several meals out of a whole chicken), there is very little having to handle icky parts (raw meat does make me a little squeamish), there is no worrying if the chicken is done or dried out and finally, I think cleaning up a crock pot is much more simple than scraping out a roasting pan.  Ladies and Gentlemen, start your crock pots and feel like kitchen geniuses!

Crock Pot Chicken and Chicken Stock
1 4-5 pound chicken, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
salt, pepper and garlic powder
6 cups water

Place whole, raw chicken in a large crock pot.  Rub with oil and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Put lid on crock pot and cook on high for two hours.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for 4+ more hours.  You can also do the entire thing on low and just lengthen the cooking time.  After 6-8 hours, chicken will be falling apart and ready to eat as is or to use in any of your recipes that call for cooked chicken.

For broth, remove chicken from bones and return the bones to the crock pot.  Add 6 cups water and allow to simmer for an additional 2-4 hours.  Remove bones and pour liquid into a large glass bowl or measuring cup.  Allow to chill in the fridge overnight.  The fat will rise to the top and solidify so that it is much easier to remove.  The impurities in the stock will have sunk to the bottom and very easy to skim away from the stock as well (just pour the chilled stock slowly into a pot reserving the impurities at the bottom).  Now you have around 2 quarts of homemade chicken stock to use in soups and recipes (our family has been on a bit of a chicken and dumpling kick...recipe to come soon, perhaps???).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dip

Oh Happy Day!  After a week of searching, I finally found my camera cord so I could upload pictures again.  Phew! I was starting to get worried...

It is late October, which means my love affair with all things pumpkin is in full swing.  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pancakes...I've even been stirring canned pumpkin into my oatmeal (recipe will most likely come soon!).  This is my latest way to enjoy the fall goodness, in a cream cheese dip.  It has me sneaking back to the fridge for spoonfuls it is so good!  I think it's really yummy with gingersnaps (money-saving tip: natural grocery stores--i.e. Henry's, Sprouts, Sunflower Market etc. seem to have the most reasonably-priced bagged gingersnaps), but it's also pretty great with graham crackers or apple slices.  And, if you have access, I highly recommend it paired with Trader Joe's Cats Cookies.  Oh, my, goodness...

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dip
1 8 oz. package 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups canned, pureed pumpkin (roughly one of the smaller sized cans of pumpkin)
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or substitute 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and 1/8 teaspoon cloves)

Directions: In a small bowl, whip cream cheese on low speed with hand held electric mixer until smooth.  Add brown and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.  Add pumpkin and spices and mix, one last time, until pumpkin and spices are incorporated.  Allow to chill before serving.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pasta Carbonara and Vegetable Ribbon Saute

Pasta Carbonara, long pasta coated in thick, luxuriously creamy sauce with salty bacon, this is true Italian comfort food!  I must admit, before I tried it I was a little unsure.  That is because the sauce is made primarily of eggs that are stirred into the pasta while they're still raw.  Sounded a bit suspect to me... Don't be afraid though, the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs, and in the process, makes this incredible sauce that reminds me very closely of fettuccini alfredo (one of those dishes that I love--who doesn't?--but feel totally guilty eating because it's as they say "a heart attack on a plate," right?).  Good news is this dish is healthier (and easier, in my opinion) than fettuccini alfredo.  And, when you top it with ribbons of vegetables sauteed in garlic and olive oil, you have a complete meal that you can rest easy with a full tummy!

Oh, and for those trivia nerds like myself, legend has it that the name "Carbonara" came from all the tiny flecks of black pepper in the pasta--it looked like coal dust. 

Vegetable Ribbon Saute

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
1 medium zucchini
1 medium carrot
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced, lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
salt and pepper to taste
1 small roma tomato, diced
fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces for garnish
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips from both the zucchini and carrot (rotating if necessary) until you can't peel off anymore and have just a little nubbin left to snack on.  Set "ribbons" aside.  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Toss in slivers of garlic and saute, stirring frequently to prevent from browning.  When garlic is fragrant (30 seconds to 1 minute) add in onions and peppers.  Saute until onions are slightly browned and begin to soften.  Add in ribbons of zucchini and carrot, season with salt and pepper and continue to saute a couple more minutes or until vegetables are crisp- tender.  Remove from heat.  Stir in diced tomato.  Garnish with basil leaves and Parmesan cheese.
Serve as a side dish or on top of pasta carbonara.

Pasta Carbonara
(serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are)
1/2 pound long pasta (spaghetti is most common, I prefer the slightly more substantial fettuccini)
2 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup water reserved from cooking the pasta
1/4 cup half and half, if needed
1/4 pound (four slices, maybe?) thick-cut bacon (feel free to increase this amount as practically everything is better with bacon)
fresh ground pepper (lots of it) and salt to taste

Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta until it is al dente.  When you drain the pasta, make sure to reserve some of the cooking liquid.  Return pasta to the pot and keep warm.  While the pasta is cooking, cook bacon until it is crispy.  Remove from heat, drain on paper towels and once cool enough to handle, crumble into bite-sized pieces.  Reserve.  Also while pasta is cooking, in a bowl or measuring cup, break eggs and scramble with a fork until thoroughly combined.  Stir in cheese and garlic powder.  While stirring the egg mixture constantly, slowly add the half cup of hot pasta water.  This will help temper the eggs so they don't scramble when added to the pasta.  Put the pot of drained pasta on a burner over medium heat.  Pour the egg mixture over the pasta, tossing constantly and rapidly, until pasta is completely coated and the sauce becomes creamy (it will happen almost immediately).  Remove from heat.  If sauce is too thick, add half and half and stir to combine.  Season with a lot of fresh ground pepper and a little salt.  Toss in bacon pieces, stir one final time and serve immediately.  Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese or top with vegetable ribbon saute.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

Ok, so I was feeling a little self-conscious that I am posting a second soup recipe in a row, but for the sake of authenticity, and honesty, soup is what I've been cooking lately.  Hopefully, everyone else is in a soup mood like I am!  This is probably the simplest soup you can possibly make, but do not underestimate it.  Right now, I am reading the book "Julie and Julia" (yes, the same one as the movie--which I am not too proud to admit made me a little emotional) and a potato leek soup (potage parmentier--sounds so fancy in French, doesn't it?) is the first Julia Child recipe that the author, Julie Powell, records (and also inspiring her to cook through the entire cookbook in a year).  Clearly, such a humble soup is capable of powerful things!  And, an interesting tidbit, by the may have heard of potato leek soup being vichyssoise as well.  Traditionally, if the soup is served hot, it is potage parmentier and if it is served cold, it is vichyssoise.  Who knew?!?

Potato Leek Soup
2-3 medium leeks, white parts only, sliced into thin (1/4") rounds (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces
4 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, divided
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chives, snipped into tiny pieces (optional for garnish)

Since leeks are very sandy, so make sure to clean them thoroughly before beginning.  Put the sliced rounds into a large bowl filled with cold water.  Using your hands, separate the rounds into rings.  The grit and dirt should separate out and fall to the bottom, then you can lift the floating leek pieces out and dry on a towel.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add leeks and saute, stirring frequently, until becoming translucent and beginning to soften.  Add potatoes and chicken broth.  Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low/medium-low and cover.  Simmer until potatoes and leeks are very tender (15-20 minutes).  Using an immersion blender (or just transfer the soup to a regular blender, but be really careful, it's hot!  If using a regular blender, make sure to keep a towel and a firm grip on the top of the blender when pureeing because the hot soup can shoot up and make a big, burning mess--not that I'm talking from experience or anything...), puree soup until smooth.  If you prefer a more "rustic style," you could certainly just mash the potatoes and leeks with a potato masher instead.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the Greek yogurt and whisk until smooth.  Ladle into bowls (or cute mugs, as pictured).  Garnish with additional dollop of yogurt and snipped chives. 

Note: feel free to substitute sour cream for Greek yogurt if that is more accessible.  Also, if you don't care for the subtle tang that the yogurt/sour cream version would provide, you can use heavy cream, half and half or canned evaporated milk instead, just skipping the garnish.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

This is another recipe I made when back at my parents' house a couple weekends ago.  I don't think I mentioned that when we went back to Minnesota, we didn't go alone.  We met up with two families who happen to be some of our very dearest friends.  The husbands got to go to a conference (Desiring God, if you were curious) and the wives and kiddos (five who were four and under!) hung out at my Mom and Dad's place.  It was crazy, it was fun, it was a weekend to remember!  We are so blessed by our friendship with these families, we love you guys!!!  Also, a big thank you to my parents, who were so welcoming.  It is clear that I have learned a lot about hospitality from them!

Before everyone parted ways, I put together a couple of batches of soup.  I can't tell you how excited I am about the weather turning cooler so I have an excuse to make soup as often as I want (it softens the blow that it's getting darker earlier and snow is imminent...).   I made one of my favorites, Chicken Wild Rice (must be my Minnesota roots).  It's simple, but so flavorful and hearty (it's a great one to make with the leftover turkey at Thanksgiving too, although I guess that would officially be "Turkey Wild Rice").  Creamy, but not too rich, it has a great nutty texture from the wild rice and is a little bit salty from bits of ham. 

Sorry the picture isn't so great, I was just trying to capture a snapshot in between spending time with friends.  This bowl (and thumb) happens to belong to our friend, Jeremy, who apparently really loves black pepper.  In the voice of Chandler Bing (another "Friends" reference), "Could there BE any more pepper on that soup???"  Apparently, he likes things spicy!  However you dress it, it's good stuff!

p.s. A few more pictures from the weekend below, if you're interested...

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
2 cups cooked wild rice (cook according to package directions or can substitute a boxed rice mix)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped ham
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
 salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream or canned evaporated milk)

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots and celery, season with a little bit of salt (don't get carried away at the beginning, so just use a little, but it's important to build the flavors all the way through), pepper and garlic powder and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and vegetables are becoming tender (3-5 minutes).  Add ham and flour.  It will "seize up" into a mass.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly for another couple of minutes to remove the raw taste from the flour.  After about 2 minutes, slowly stir in chicken broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly so that the flour-vegetable mixture is smoothly incorporated into the broth.  Raise heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cooked rice and chicken.  Allow to simmer until vegetables are tender.  Shortly before serving, stir in half and half or cream and allow to gently heat through without boiling.  Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Note: This is definitely not the super-thick version that you may have come across at restaurants or hanging out in kettles at supermarkets.  If you want something closer to that, increase the flour and butter significantly--maybe 1/2 cup each?--and make sure to stir constantly when you are bringing the soup to a boil (almost like you're making a white sauce).  

The three couples from the left: Ryan and Angie, Jeremy and Julia and Jay and I

The "Big" kids, Moriah, Silas and Zoey

The Babies (for now, Julia's expecting this Spring!): Yirah and Judah (my little Bubba-Doo)


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato and Chicken Pasta

Something I really love about going home is the game that I can make out of creating dinner out of what my parents have in their cupboards.  I think I tend to do way better when I'm just given a handful of ingredients and am forced to come up with something on the fly.  The downside is that I am not much of a planner and sometimes dishes do not turn out.  Thankfully, this one was a winner (although  I think it's pretty hard to go wrong with pasta and even though I am reminded of a "Friends" episode where Monica scoffs at sun dried tomatoes being out of style, I'm still a fan).  The inspiration for this recipe goes way back to one of the first dishes I remember preparing.

I began cooking for my family when I was thirteen and we moved to Phoenix.  My mom declared it too hot to cook and I think after a more than a decade of battling with kids whining about onions and not wanting to eat "green stuff," she pretty much threw in the proverbial kitchen towel.  I was starting off my teenage years with a bit of a weight struggle, as I was pretty good at feeding my emotions.  It was also at this time that the cookbook "In the Kitchen with Rosie," by one of Oprah's personal chefs, showed up in our house.  The recipes were low fat (it was the nineties and that was the rage, remember), but still felt indulgent, so that appealed to my self-conscious, round self. 

One of the first I tried was for a (somewhat involved) chicken and sun dried tomato penne.  This is a simplified version.  Since it was at my parents' house, I used heavy cream (according to latest research, it's not the evil that it has been made out to be), but at my house I like to save a few calories--more dessert!--by using evaporated milk.
Sun Dried Tomato and Chicken Pasta
1 pound shaped pasta (farfalle, penne, rigatoni, etc.)
1 cup sun dried tomatoes  (the dry kind, not the kind packed in oil)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic (about 2 cloves worth)
1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
Shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
fresh basil leaves, torn (optional, used for garnish)

In a small bowl, pour boiling water over sun dried tomatoes.  Allow to sit and soften for about five minutes.  Drain off the water and as soon as the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, cut (or snip with kitchen shears) into bite-sized strips.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and keep warm.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Throw in chicken seasoned with salt and pepper and brown, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned on all sides.  Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and mushrooms to the pan and cook stirring frequently until garlic is fragrant and mushrooms begin to soften.  Add chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and cook until chicken is entirely cooked through.  Stir in cream and heat through.  Do not allow it to come to a boil (it can separate).  Remove from heat and stir in spinach leaves.  Pour over pasta and garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese and basil leaves. 

Notes: you can substitute frozen peas for the spinach (or include them as well).  Don't even thaw them, just throw them into the sauce at the end and they'll heat up almost instantly. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Recipe Mash Up: Breakfast Burritos

I know I am not alone when I say that I really enjoy the t.v. show, "Glee."  I especially love episodes that have song mash up's--when they take a couple familiar songs and combine them in a clever way.  This is what I would consider a mash up of some of the recipes I've posted in the past, and thus, this post has links galore (cleverness, I guess could be debated, but deliciousness is a sure bet!).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread

It's good to be back!  We were back in Minnesota last week and both my parents' internet and ours since we got home have been highly unreliable.  Thanks to my dear (and technically-savvy!) husband, we are back online and I am thankful!

Warning: this cream cheese has addictive properties.  It's really swell.  But if we're being perfectly honest, doesn't just about everything that contains cream cheese pretty fabulous?  Sweet, savory and a little bit smoky all at the same time, it has a really complex flavor for something so simple.  Whip up a batch and let it hang out in your fridge (I doubt it'll last long) to await adorning the most delicious sandwiches or dress a simple cracker or celery stick...

Roasted Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened (I always buy the reduced fat variety and it works great!)
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 small zucchini, sliced
1  small yellow squash, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced into rounds
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 medium-hot pepper(s) , cut into rounds (*see note)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Spread all vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle olive oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast vegetables at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Remove from oven and let cool. In a food processor with the blade attachment (or a blender), process cream cheese for a few seconds.  Add vegetables and process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary).  Spoon into container.  Use as a dip with veggies, pita chips or crackers, a spread on sandwiches and wraps or as a filling for stuffed chicken breasts.  I have even used it as part of the filling for enchiladas, but enchiladas in our house are often the catch-all for using up leftovers (see my white bean enchilada recipe).  By the way, I just figured out how to link (please don't laugh, I really am that inept!) and am very, very excited! 

*Note:  Feel free to use your favorite variety of pepper depending on your preference of flavor and heat (Poblano, Anaheim, jalapeno, pick!).  If you are fortunate enough to have access, my most favorite is the Mariachi pepper found but once a year at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton, CO.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Summer Fruit Cobbler Bars

Alright, I know.  Summer is officially over.  Sad.  The other day, I got to go shopping with one of my sisters and seeing darling summer clothes on clearance and knowing they would not be appropriate until next year made me feel a little bummed.  But, we have plenty of good things to be looking forward to as well!  For those days that you might feel a little nostalgic, here's a recipe that captures the flavors of all the delicious flavors of summer.  Use frozen fruit and it will still be like a lovely little vacation.  Otherwise, look in the notes for variations on the filling to find some ideas that are more seasonal.  No matter how you fill it, I will always be up for something sandwiched between the soft, brown sugar-oatmeal crust!

Summer Fruit Cobbler Bars
1 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cup flour (can use whole wheat)
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    (1-2 T. water, if needed)

Combine all ingredients, stir to form stiff dough.  Pat half of mixture (reserve the other half for crumbling on top of the filling) into an 8x8” baking pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  While crust is baking, prepare filling.

1 cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
2 cups sliced peaches (about 2 large or 3 small--fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup raspberries or strawberries (frozen are fine)
3 T. granulated tapioca
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook until thickened and tapioca is soft-ish and fruit is almost tender (about 10 minutes).  Pour over crust.  Crumble remaining crust mixture over top.  Bake additional 20 minutes at 350 degrees until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

note: can be modified with different fillings i.e. Sliced apples, cinnamon and sugar to taste and the tapioca prepared according to above directions, commercially prepared cherry pie filling is easy (just pour on and top) and reminds me of ones my Grandma Lois used to make...also delicious, date filling (combine 3 cups chopped pitted dates and 1 1/2 cups water--no need for thickener!--in a saucepan and cook over low heat stirring continually until thickened, about 10 minutes)
Additionally, if you don't have tapioca, you can use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, just stir it into the water and then combine with the rest of the filling ingredients.