How to Have the Best Summer Ever!

Wow, can you believe it? Summer is almost over!

This makes me really sad.  There’s so much about summer that I love—warm days and outdoor activities—swimming, picnicking, music in the park–or cool summer nights chasing fireflies and hanging out late. Perhaps, though, the best part about summer is the food!  It’s been a while since I’ve talked about food, so allow me to take a break from weightier matters for a moment. What is summer, after all, without lemonade, watermelon and ice cream?  How can we let summer get away from us without talking about grilled veggies and barbecue chicken?

What I have for you today are the top three summer foods that I recommend you add to your menu before the cool winds of fall begin to blow! Then, keep reading, because I also have a suggestion for making this the best summer ever–even if it is almost over.

Garlic Dijon-Grilled Veggies (and salmon!)

Photo Credit: Greg Dupree

So, this one is a two-fer.  I was looking for a new way to season my salmon and came across Natasha’s Garlic Dijon recipe.  The salmon was bomb so I thought, why not use the same marinade on my grilled veggies for the 4th of July? Ah! We had fireworks on the grill this year—the veggies were a hit!  So, give it a try—with your salmon and your veggies! Grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms add color and flavor to just about any meal! You can eat them alone or add them to your burger—super delicious!  Have leftovers? Grab a pack of flour tortillas and a jar of salsa and presto! Taco Tuesday! Just add chicken strips and cheese with the grilled veggies.  It’s super easy and so good.

Marinade:

2 Tbsp light olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves pressed

1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

Impossible Burger

So, veggies are good, but this is not your mama’s veggie burger! The Impossible Burger really looks and tastes like meat! Now, with that said, I must add a disclaimer: The Impossible Burger is delicious, but not exactly healthy. According to Cooking Light, it’s not the worst thing to eat, but it’s not the best either. It does have zero cholesterol, but it also has too much saturated fat and sodium to be considered a healthy alternative to beef.  Nonetheless, everybody wants to sink their teeth into a good burger every now and then, so when you do, I recommend that you at least give this one a try! If nothing else, it is an environmentally friendly alternative to meat.

Now let me tell you the secret for making the Impossible really delicious—make it at home!  The Impossible Burger itself doesn’t have much flavor, so if you’ve tried one at a restaurant and didn’t like it, it may be that you didn’t like the way it was prepared. I’ve tried them at a few restaurants, but found that my preparation was the best (of course!)

The frozen burgers are not yet available everywhere, so you’ll have to check around. It just so happens that a market where I live sells them—yay me!

So, if you’re lucky enough to get your hand on a frozen pack, snatch it up! Then, while you’re at it, go ahead and grab an electric smoker. This is the secret. A smoker will take this burger to the next level! Electric smokers run from $50 to $250 and you can find them at hardware stores, sporting goods stores and WalMart. Trust me, it’s worth the investment because a smoker makes everything taste good!

To prepare:  I thawed the burger meat, formed it into patties, then on both sides of each I sprinkled garlic powder, smoked paprika, Goya Adobo all purpose seasoning and a Weber “Kickin’ Chicken” herb blend that I found at Sam’s. We put the burgers in the smoker for about an hour and a half and the smell alone was enough to seal the deal!  After that, I put the burger on a soft bun with mayo, Dijon mustard, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and hello!

Of course, there’s a thousand ways to make a burger—BBQ sauce and cheddar, sautéed onion and mushroom—go crazy! Once that burger comes off the smoker it has such a great flavor and texture! It’s chewy, but not tough—hands down, the best veggie burger I’ve ever tasted.

Instead of this…

Ranier Cherries

And finally, what’s a good meal without dessert?  But my last summer favorite has nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with choices. Ever since my daughter’s birthday party which was followed not long after by the 4th of July, there have been an extraordinary number of sweet treats knocking around my house—specifically candy.  Now, I’m not usually a candy person, but because it’s sitting here in clear glass jars (my fault) I find myself picking up a few M&Ms or grabbing a gumball out of boredom. Next thing I know I’m grabbing a second and a third handful, then I’m left with a tummy ache and a load of regret. Have you been there? So, my first step is to get this stuff out of my house! The clear glass jars are cute, but they have to go. And the next step is to find a suitable replacement. Enter Ranier Cherries—Nature’s Candy. Guys, I’m sure you’ve had cherries before, but have you had Ranier Cherries? These take sweet to a whole ‘nother level! And what I love is that you can sit them out on the counter in a pretty dish like this and feel like you’re eating candy. Don’t you love that they’re good and good for you? Yum!

Try this!

So, how has your summer been?  Have you traveled? Soaked up some sun? Slipped into the silky blue waters of an exotic destination?  Or have you been like me, wound up in work and obligations seemingly missing out on all the fun? It’s easy to miss the beauty and enjoyment that’s right in front of us when we’re distracted by our friends’ vacation photos on Instagram, and it’s tempting to assume we’re the only ones locked in the daily grind with no time, no money or both.

But this doesn’t have to be our story.  I’d say it’s on us to seek out the simple pleasures of life. We can find ways to treat ourselves right where we are!

Use your weekends to explore.

Recently I had a day off and spent several hours just soaking up nature from my back porch! Why not take a walk or bike ride in the park after work? Lace up your sneakers and get in a quick workout while blasting your favorite music.  Check out your local Visitor’s Bureau or Pinterest for “staycation” ideas. It’s all about enjoying the moments wherever you can find them!

The bottom line is, even while we pursue our goals and success, we shouldn’t forgot to also pursue joy. It’s the only way to truly live!

Here’s to a happy summer full of simple pleasures!

Choose Joy!