Author Archives: hcasamen

Summer Santorini Salad

July was crazy busy for us. Too many vacations and long weekends. Is that possible?

While the time away from home was well enjoyed, we did also breathe a sigh of relief when we knew it was all over and we could settle back into our own home. The first night back from vacation, we couldn’t wait to enjoy our back patio, fire up the grill and sip something cold.

When I read the description for this Santorini Salad in one of the cook books I regularly flip through, I immediately mentally bookmarked it, and thought what a better time to make use of it.

“A traditional vegetable and feta salad, dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, Santorini Salad sparkles with fresh flavors. Add a crusty loaf of bread, a well-chilled white wine, and perhaps some grilled shrimp, and you will have a very fine summer meal.” 

Can you picture it?

Setting out to recreate this little vision, I started with the search for the perfect loaf of artisan bread. I read so many labels until I found the one that described exactly what I was looking for: crusty on the outside, moist on the inside.


Next up was the shrimp. Given that it’s summer, the question of how to cook the shrimp was a no brainer: on the grill. The seasonings as well came without a second thought: basil, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil. Simplicity.


With the sides all in place, all there was left to do was chop and mix a few fresh veggies, top them with feta cheese, and call it Santorini Salad.


Well that, and of course the white wine had to be poured, and a glass of extra artichoke hearts set out to enjoy atop the extra slices of fresh bread.


Please note the paper towels. One of the most fun parts of this meal was the lack of utensils. With only a serving spoon to dish out the vegetable salad, the remainder of the work was left up to the fingers and deft bread scooping skills.

Santorini Salad

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Santorini Salad

Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables


  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts
  • 1 c kalamata or black olives
  • 6-8 oz feta cheese


  1. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and onion in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Cut tomatoes, cucumber, and red pepper. Add to bowl.
  3. Add artichokes and olives. Mix well.
  4. Add the cheese and mix again.
  5. Serve immediately alongside a crusty loaf of bread.

Healthy Eating Tips for Vacation

Hello friends!

I’m checking in after a fantastic family vacation on Burt Lake (it’s near Lake Michigan). The vacation was filled with water activities, island biking, and obviously tons of great food.

Now let me tell you…vacations are THE WORST for foodie versus fitness gals like me. We want to just gorge ourselves with tons of food and blame it on vacation, but we know we’re tougher than that, so we yank ourselves out of bed early and we run. Yes, we run. Even though we’re on vacation.

There are other ways; however, to stay active on vacation. For example, when we took a day trip to Mackinac Island, we rented bikes and rode around for miles and miles taking in the sites and swerving around all the “slow” families.


After a little exercise, we walked down Main Street in search of treats. The boys chose to treat themselves with island cigars. I chose to treat myself with a little bit of island fudge. Chocolate sea salt caramel fudge that is.


We went out for dinner just about every night on this trip. When going out to dinner, making healthy choices can take a lot of will power. I try to stick to the large salad or seafood options, only have one glass of wine, and choose between having the bread, appetizers or desserts. Another great way to cut back is to share! So when the bacon wrapped shrimp appetizer comes out, just have one, and then split the after-dinner tiramisu with the person sitting next to you. Many of our dinners ended this way. Just a few aunts, uncles or cousins would order a slice of cake, and then the plates would get passed around the table of 20 so everyone could have a small bite of sweet.

Yet another tip – and an incredibly simple tip, I might add – is just to slow down and really try to listen to your stomach telling you when it’s full. Avoid the feeling of being uncomfortably stuffed by allowing your stomach and your mind the time to communicate. Focus on the dinner conversations and the company around you instead of the food.

Of course the best way to make healthy choices on vacation is to cook for yourself. Not only are you in charge of your portion sizes and the integrity of your calories, but also you get to spend quality time with family. I had a really hard job during the making of the last night’s dinner – shake the pepper and drink wine 🙂 .


Having the willpower to eat healthy on vacation isn’t just reserved for eating out. Even when we ate at home, the temptation was everywhere. Should I have pie for dessert? The french silk or the berry? Or, should I wait to have a s’more later by the fire?

I ended up choosing to have a small slice of pie, and let the s’mores torment me for hours later. That plate seriously would not stop whispering my name!


My trick is to try and focus on other things – like my brother’s guitar playing for example. If I’m singing along to his tunes, I can’t be stuffing my face with s’mores. Or, the beautiful the lake out in front of us. If I’m taking pictures of the sun setting, I can’t be licking excess gooey marshmallow off my hands.


Find something else to rest your mind on and meditate on it. If you let your mind get lost in the other great parts of vacation, you might be able to make it home feeling great instead of feeling like you need to hit the gym or the veggie isle of the grocery store.

tomato goat cheese cobbler recipe

Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler Recipe

Hello friends!

Another relaxing weekend mostly spent enjoying our back deck has come and gone. James and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary – and pretty much made it a whole weekend ordeal.

Friday night I whipped up a quick pesto pasta dinner, which we enjoyed on the back deck before heading inside to binge watch Netflix and stuff our faces with Graeter’s ice cream: cheese crown and chocolate chip cookie dough to be exact.

Saturday morning we went for a long bike ride. When our legs couldn’t take another mile, we headed home to spend the rest of the afternoon reading on the back porch. Then we headed to Sarah’s Place for dinner where we each enjoyed a saucy Italian dish – I demolished a plate of baked eggplant – and then slowly savored a dessert of cappuccino and carrot cake. We spent the rest of the night dancing to the music of some pretty great up-and-coming Cleveland bands.

After church on Sunday morning (and of donuts, of course), I spent some time working in the yard. Then it was back to the porch to continue reading. Right now I’m really into The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollen. If you’re interested in the food industry and want to know more about how just about everything you eat is derived from corn, you’ll enjoy this book.

Finally having a few days to wind down, I was really excited to end the weekend with a recipe I’ve been dreaming about for a while now – especially since it included my homemade goat cheese as a main ingredient.


This tomato goat cheese cobbler recipe was fabulous, and I can’t wait to make it again! The biscuits were the perfect combination of sweet and salty. The cherry tomatoes burst flavor in every bite. And, the goat cheese complemented the biscuit and tomato perfectly.

It was an extremely comforting way to wind down the night – enjoying warm cobbler, taking in the smells from neighbor’s grills, watching the sun set through the trees behind our house, sipping on a Manhattan.

I really hope you’ll take the time to make this, and enjoy it as much as we did.

Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 9 servings

Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler

A perfect Sunday evening comfort food adapted from the David Blagh.


  • 3/4 cup & 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup & 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cold buttermilk
  • Tomato Filling
  • 1 package, or about 1 pint, cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can, or about 14 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 sprigs of thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 6 oz soft goat cheese


  1. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using two knives until you have pea size pieces.
  2. Drizzle in the buttermilk and mix with a fork until dry ingredients are evenly moistened.
  3. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface. Press and squeeze until the dough begins to hold together.
  4. Shape the dough into disc about 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut out about 9 biscuits. Continue to gather the dough scraps, press them into a slab again, and cut out as many biscuits as you can.
  5. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Toss cherry tomatoes, olive oil, half the thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper in an oven proof skillet. Cover the skillet and cook on medium-high until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover the skillet and add the crushed tomatoes. Continue cooking until all the cherry tomatoes have burst slightly.
  8. Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork. Remove the biscuits from the freezer and brush the tops with the beaten egg.
  9. Place the biscuits on top of the tomato mixture, spacing them about 1 inch apart.
  10. Bake the cobbler for 25 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and dot the goat cheese between the biscuits, covering all exposed tomato mixture. Return the skillet, turn the oven to 450 degrees and continue baking until the top of the cobbler is nicely browned, about 10 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle the remaining thyme over the top of the cobbler, followed by a pinch of pepper.
  12. Enjoy warm out of the oven!

blueberry picking

What to Do With Pounds and Pounds of Blueberries

Hey guys! Crazy long weekend full of friends and family over here.

We started the weekend off with a bang at Cleveland’s Hofbrauhaus, enjoying mugs of beer, great polka music and dancing on tables. My brother’s band really rocked the house and kept this typical “grandma” out way past her usual cap.

Saturday we built a fire pit in our backyard and invited some friends over for s’mores and raccoon attacks. We were all just chatting around the fire when someone calmly said “Uh, guys, there’s a raccoon sitting next to me.” She really ruined his sneak attack on the marshmallow bag, but that raccoon didn’t give up. He just kept coming back. All. Night. Long.

Sunday we headed over to my college roommate’s one of my dearest friend’s family home. She was visiting from NYC, and had a bunch of her old farm town Ohioan friends over for a good ol’ backyard BBQ. This night of course also ended with a bonfire and more s’mores. Only this time we really amped it up and went with chocolate filled marshmallows.

By Monday, we were absolutely wiped from summer fun, so after a morning hike, we spent most of the day on the couch. We then headed to my parents for dinner, and ended the July 4th weekend with a piece of cherry pie.

blueberry recipes easy desserts

Amongst all of this fun, my most favorite part of the long weekend was Saturday morning. We woke up as early as we could to head out for the first day of blueberry picking season! Together, James and I picked 16 pounds of blueberries.



A little boy picking berries with his mother even came over to James and squealed with delight, “You’ve got a lot in your bucket! You even have way more than my mom has!” The two boys then proceeded to throw blueberries for one another to catch in their mouths. No matter the age, boys will be boys.


So, now I have pounds and pounds of blueberries to turn into delicious – healthy and some not-so-healthy – muffins, breads, cakes and crumbles. The whole shebang.

I’ve of course started a Pinterest Board and thought I’d share some of the recipes in case you decided to add blueberry picking to your list of summer fun too.

  • This is the blueberry recipe – an incredibly easy to make dessert, by the way – that I specifically loaded up on blueberries to make: Bread & Wine & Blueberry Crisp.
  • Since my brother-in-law and his lovely lady just blessed us with an ice cream maker, I’m more than excited to try my hand at a blueberry ice cream using fresh blueberries.
  • A homemade blueberry jam without loads of excess sugar definitely made the list! Cant wait to mix up the usual egg breakfast and spread this on some Ezekiel toast.
  • Some blueberry scones from one of my favorite baking bloggers – she even titles them My Favorite, so you know they have to be awesome!
  • This is an oldie, but a goodie that you must try: Blueberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
  • For a day when I feel like pulling out the fancy pants, I’ve saved this recipe for Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream.
  • And then, well…there’s these

Making Time For Hobbies

Hello, hello.

Wow, what a weekend we had. I mean wow what a week. We were go-go-go every day after work. We saw so many friends and family. It was fantastic.

Except it wasn’t fantastic for this blog. I’ve found more and more that this blog suffers when my life prospers. When I’m off doing the things I really love, there’s simply no time for stopping at the computer. Don’t get me wrong – I love sharing with you guys. But, now I understand why so many blogs fail. They really and truly require many hours of work. It’s not all taking pretty pictures and sharing stories.

I’m also finding that the older I get the more hobbies and activities I want to fill my day with. Why can’t someone just pay me to be a 50’s housewife, so I can fill my days with the hobbies that bring me the most joy?!

I want to do so much more of what these past few weeks have been filled with.

I want to celebrate more with family, (that’s my brother Sean. He just graduated from college. And…he’s in a band.)


and splurge more with friends.


I want to ride my bike down more country roads,


and attend more local festivals. IMG_2248

I want to bake more breads, ferment more veggies, ice more cakes and try more new foods (Those are lentil croquettes from a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio called Fire and Drink)!


But, most of all I want to make more cheese. Ok, here’s the story…

James and I joined a herdshare. As part of this herdshare, we visit a local farm every week to pet the goats and pick up our share of their milk. The goat milk has been great in morning coffee, oatmeal and plenty of baked goods. But, I’m ready to take it up a notch – to cheesemaking! Yep, I made my first cheese, a chevre, and I’m hooked. I can’t wait to make cheddar, brie, mozzarella – you name it!

Instead of attempting to make the chevre on my own, I asked the woman who cares for the goats to walk me through the process. Cheesemaking is not like cooking or baking. It is science. So, to begin, I got a science lesson on the making of cheese.


This is the aftermath of the actual cheese making session. We nibbled on a little bit of a cheese that had already been made while our recently made cheese was beginning to set in the pot.


After allowing the cheese to drain for close to 10 hours, and letting it sit in the refrigerator for three days, I was dying to taste it. The tasting itself was an event. We poured some wine, salted the cheese together and took our first bite.


Every day after, the cheese kept gaining more and more flavor. It was just about perfect when we had family in town, so I whipped up some mini appetizers, pairing the goat cheese with fig and jalapeno strawberry jelly.


So, there you have it. If you’re waiting around for days for a new post it’s because I’m busy making cheese :).