Blueberry Hand Pies

Labor Day, seriously? Where did the summer go?! We’ve had so many amazing experiences this summer, but my brain still thinks it should be June. 

August seems to have passed by especially fast. With everything that we’ve had going on this month, some important things have nearly slipped my mind–neither my husband nor I really planned anything for our anniversary until the day before, when my dad emailed to congratulate us. I guess that’s what happens when pregnancy brain (which seems to afflict both mommy and daddy) takes over your life! Luckily, we had an amazing anniversary anyway–a delicious dinner out, dessert in, and a quiet, low-key night that was the perfect respite from the busy week. 

Luckily, I had the brain capacity to remember to make these blueberry hand pies before the berry season completely dries up. Simplicity is key to these pies. With blueberries still so gorgeous and juicy, you don’t need much else to make a tasty dessert. The flaky, buttery pie crust was the perfect complement to the simple fruit filling, and the size is just perfect for munching on as a sweet summer snack. 

In fact, these little pies might be part of the reason I feel like we’re still right in the middle of summer. (Gorgeous, fresh berries have a way of doing that to me.) No wonder it’s so hard for me to believe that September is just around the corner. 

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Mauritian Chicken Daube

I’m not a big follower of the celebrity chef thing. I haven’t had cable in ages so food TV hasn’t really been on my radar for a while, and anyway, in terms of my own cooking, I tend to stick with home-style recipes that are easy enough to prepare on my own without too much trouble. Besides, I learn best through reading, and there are already so many lovely food blogs out there for me to crush on and be inspired by. 

All that said, I have to say that Jamie Oliver is one celebrity chef that I just adore. I didn’t really know who he was until he spoke at a TED conference several years back about reforming school lunches. Not too long after that, I started watching his reality show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which documented his attempts to reform certain public school lunch systems. I got totally hooked on the first season, which took place in West Virginia, so I was ecstatic when he began filming the second season here in LA, just a stone’s throw from my own neighborhood.

Something about his effort to make this change was really moving to me. I wasn’t even close to becoming a mom at that time, but even so, it’s impossible to resist the idea of teaching kids about nutrition and providing them with healthy, nourishing foods at their schools. I don’t often get on my soapbox about anything, but this is a cause that I can’t help but root for. Here’s hoping that by the time my kids are school-age, they’ll have the option to be healthy at the place where they’re fed one of their daily meals. 

I’m not really sure where his efforts have led since then, but I’ve still been a fan of his ever since. This recipe for Mauritian chicken daube is something I stumbled upon a few months ago via his fantastic website. One look at that picture, and I just knew I had to try it out.

This chicken is firm but tender, in a fresh and tomatoey sauce with an almost curry-like blend of herbs and spices that is so tasty, I was practically licking my bowl to eat up every last drop. Leftovers (if you’re able to refrain from eating it all up at once) are even better, the flavors developing further the longer it gets to sit. This chicken daube has become an immediate classic in our house. 

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When it comes to expertise on Mexican food, I tend to think of myself as being in an awkward position. For one thing, I’m Chinese American, which means that my culinary heritage extends back to a place halfway around the world from anything even remotely Mexican, a place where people would hardly think to grind corn into masa or add chocolate to a savory sauce. Then again, I grew up in Southern California, less than an hour from the border, where Taco Tuesday is a weekly ritual for some, and carne asada burritos are on the “to eat” list every time we visit my parents. 

Even so, I have to say that it isn’t without a little bit of anxiety that I post this recipe for enchiladas. I can’t say these are traditional in any way, coming out of my kitchen, but I made them and they were yummy, and that’s good enough for me. Is authentic enchilada sauce supposed to have tomatoes in it or should it be tomato-free? Honestly, I’m not the person to ask; I’m not an expert, and I like both.

What I am an expert in is eating what I love, and right now I’m loving tasty and filling recipes that are also healthy. These chicken and mexican squash enchiladas are the perfect mix of healthy and delicious. What I love most is that they’re totally packed with veggies and lean protein. The sauce is also healthy, rich with tomatoes, but spiked with a little heat and a little smoke, making it light but flavorful, which is important because CHEESE. You gotta make room for the cheese, and if a recipe is going to contain heaps of it, the rest of the recipe better darn well be light. 

These enchiladas also make great leftovers, not that we had very much left from an entire 9 x 13 inch tray of these between the two of us. I guess that’s the trouble of making something that leaves you feeling pretty good, and not weighed down by something overly heavy: you just keep going back for more. Not that it was a problem for me–my plate of 2 enchiladas the next day made a perfectly portioned (and perfectly tasty) lunch. 

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DIY Carseat Canopy

One thing I love about crafting is that it makes me feel productive when I’d just be relaxing in front of the TV anyway. It almost feels like I’m getting a bonus out of life when an otherwise quiet evening results in something new and handmade. It also doesn’t hurt that it makes me feel like I’m multitasking–even though the only other “task” that I’m accomplishing besides crafting is lounging around watching Netflix. (But while we’re on the subject, I’m super into Murder, She Wrote these days. I think Angela Lansbury is what I would like to be when I grow up.)

The only problem with crafting is that it’s work. Sometimes, especially on hot days like these, it’s enough work to make me sweat like I was exercising instead of sitting in front of a sewing machine. So if I’m going to be crafting during the summer, the payoff really has to be there.

This DIY carseat canopy takes just a few minutes to throw together, but it’s bound to be useful for at least as long as you’re using your infant seat. For me, that makes it totally worth the effort, even on a hot summer night. 

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Grilling has always been my husband’s domain. Ask me to go outside and fire up the grill and I’ll either (a) laugh in your face, or (b) burn something down. For most of my life, my only experience getting grill marks on food has been with the George Foreman grill I had in college. But a few weeks ago, I finally gave in and bought myself a nice reversible cast iron griddle that I’d been eyeing for a while. One side is flat, for pancakes and the like, and the other is ridged, for getting those gorgeous grill marks on your food–indoors. 

I have to say, I’ve really been putting that thing to good use lately. The first time I used it was to grill veggies ahead of time for a barbecue we were hosting, in an effort to get everything to the table at the same time instead of the normal staggered service that comes with cooking everything on the grill.

So easy and so tasty. Why didn’t I buy this thing sooner? The possibilities suddenly seem so endless.

These grilled summer vegetables are a cinch to make on an indoor griddle. The veggies are sliced thinly and then grilled until gorgeously tender, and then tossed in a bit of balsamic vinegar and seasoning–simple and healthy, just the way I like my summer veggies. A watchful eye, a little patience, and maybe some air conditioning are all you need to whip these up on your stovetop. 

I found that grilling the eggplant and peppers first worked best, since the squash tends to be a bit juicier, which can result in spluttering when the water comes into contact with the oil on the hot grill. Make sure to oil the surface of each eggplant slice so that it starts cooking once it comes in contact with the heat. Flip the veggies once they’re soft or you see dark grill marks on them. They’ll continue to cook a bit after they’re off the grill, so don’t worry if they’re still a little stiff when you remove them from the griddle.

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