Relish the taste of summer…literally and figuratively speaking. Take stock in seasonal produce, succulent grilled food, refreshing summer cocktails, but do so in a manner like there's no tomorrow. Come December, you'll wish you had taken just a little more time to relax and enjoy. This week we're offering five suggestions to make life more palatable.
1. Grab your reusable shopping bag and head to a farmer's market.
If a woodchuck raided your garden and all that remains are half-chewed stems of a once-promising patch of fresh vegetables, or if you didn't plant a garden this summer there are many ways to get your fill. The Cooperative Farmers Market of Scranton, Providence Road and Albright Avenue, is open until November, with hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Farm markets in the Abingtons include Miller's Orchards Farm Market, open Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Essential Eating Farmer's Market, 513 Northern Boulevard Clarks Summit, hours: Thurs., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and in winter 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Abington Farmers' Market, South Abington Park, Northern Blvd., Routes 6 & 11, Chinchilla, Saturday, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. until the Last Saturday in October.
2. Find your heaven on earth in a picnic basket filled with your favorite food groups.
When was the last time you played hooky from lawn mowing and weekend house cleaning and took off with a picnic basket in hand? . Picnic close to home, in your backyard if you choose, or pack a vehicle and head for the hills. If you haven't made a fresh fruit dessert, Williams Country Store and Pies, 2613 Milwaukee Road in Ransom Township is one spot to get some rhubarb, raspberry or another seasonal slice (or whole pie) for the road. Select your favorite picnic spot or sit creekside at the Lazy Brook Park, Tunkhannock Township, Wyoming County at 113 Tunkhannock Township Drive. If you don't have time to prepare the main course, stop at Weis Markets, 1020 Northern Boulevard, Gerrity's Supermarket, 100 Old Lackawanna Trail or Everything Natural, 426 South State Street, all in Clarks Summit, and fill your cart with your favorite fruit and accoutrements. 3.
Give yourself a Saturday or Sunday morning treat.
You roll out of bed on a weekend morning and shuffle to the kitchen. The egg carton is empty, the baguette in your kitchen hard as a rock and you've forgotten to buy a pound of coffee. Hmmm…forget breakfast at home. Treat yourself to brunch at an outdoor café. Here are a few choices: Camelot Restaurant & Inn, 17 Johnson Road, Clarks Summit, Brunch on Saturday and Sunday Brunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Patsel's, Rts. 6 & 11, Clarks Summit, Sunday Brunch begins at 11 a.m. with the last seating at 2 p.m. and Fern Hall Inn, 2819 State Rt. 247, Clifford, Sunday Brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
4. Mocktail or cocktail on an outdoor deck? Why not.
Whichever you choose, make that moment at the end of your workday a time to unwind. A suggestion by Mari Walker, Duffy's Coffee House is a frozen mocha espresso, modified for home, of course. Use one shot of espresso or a 10 ounce cup of strong black coffee; two tablespoons chocolate syrup (she uses Monin); two cups of ice; 1/4 cup of half and half. Pour coffee or espresso over the chocolate, into a large mug. Next add all other ingredients into a blender and mix on high until slushy. Add the chocolate concoction and briefly mix. Add sugar or Splenda if you like it sweeter, and a shot of Baileys Irish Cream or Creme de Menthe for a cool summertime coffee cocktail. Serve in a tall glass or plastic tumbler with whipped cream.
5. Jingle jangle, there goes the ice cream truck.
If you keep missing the frozen traveling treats in your neighborhood with its Choco -tacos or Firecracker Popsicles, there's a scoop waiting right around the corner at Manning Farm Dairy, 420 State St., Clarks Summit or Montdale Farm Dairy, 939 Montdale Road, Scott Township. Or if you're feeling creative, take Clarks Summit native Danielle Fleming's lead and make your own ice cream with farm fresh milk and farmers' market fruit (recipe at right). But don't let the summer slip by without a sprinkles vs. jimmies debate.
Summer Peach Ice Cream
Courtesy of Danielle Fleming, founder, NEPA Swappers
Use yellow or white peaches, preferably freestone, where the pit removes freely from the flesh.
Yield: 1 quart
2 cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peach butter (recipe follows)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
4 medium peaches, pits removed and chopped into ½ inch cubes
Combine all (including the bean and its scrapings), except peaches, in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Bring mixture to a simmer. As soon as it begins to bubble strain into a freezable container with a lid. Cool, then refrigerate covered for 4 hours.
Spoon in ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer's instructions. The mixture will not freeze hard in the machine. Once the ice cream gets smooth, slowly add peaches. Spoon into a lidded container and harden in freezer at least 1 hour before serving.
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown, www.foodnetwork.com
Slow Cooker Summer Peach Butter;
Yield, 3 ½ pint jars
8 peaches, chopped (do not peel)
½ cup water
1-2 cups sugar (depends on desired sweetness)
1 lemon, zest and juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of vanilla extract (optional)
Roughly chop peaches and add to slow cooker with ½ cup of water. Stir to combine. Cook fruit on low heat for 6-8 hours. Stir occasionally. Prop lid to let the steam escape if it seems too hot. Once the fruit has reduced to half its original volume, mash with a potato masher or an immersion blender to smooth consistency. Add sugar, zest and juice of 1 lemon, cinnamon and optional vanilla. Stir to combine. Taste for sweetness and add sugar to your liking. Once desired sweetness is reached, continue to cook for another ½ hour to blend.
To preserve the fruit butter, pour hot peach butter into hot sterilized jars and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Store in cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
If not preserving, remove from slow cooker and let cool in glass bowl. Freeze or store for immediate use in lidded container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.