gazpachoGazpacho, what a perfect name for a chilled soup. Ever since hearing of the exotic "gazpacho," I have been intrigued and perplexed by its very foreign name. I came to learn that the soup's roots lie in Andalusia in the southern region of Spain. Gazpacho originated as a cold soup of stale bread, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Once tomatoes were brought from the New World and added to the traditional recipe, the summertime soup became even more refreshing. Over the years the soup has transformed, sometimes omitting bread, and in some tomato-less variations including almonds, cucumbers, and grapes. When I tried gazpacho for the first time, I realized what I had been missing and what I had misconstrued as foreignness was just my lack of knowing how incredibly simple it is to make.

With no cooking involved, all that is needed are fresh vegetables, a good sharp knife, and a blender. I've attempted to make gazpacho before but haven't always been successful with achieving the right vegetable combination or the texture. It's entirely about having that just-so touch witth the blender. Blend too little, the soup will be too grainy and blend too much, it will be watery. One way to get really good texture is to reserve some of the chopped vegetables to add back into the puréed soup. This will create a chunky version, which is the kind I prefer. Some recipes call for pushing the soup through a sieve. Others recommend a food mill, which will achieve a really good texture. It's really personal preference that dictates whichever textural method is used.

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summercocltailsSummer is in full swing and with the weather reaching higher temperatures, there's more reason than ever to cool down with a chilled beverage. For me summer is incomplete without enjoying a great cocktail at an outdoor party.

With the fourth of July just days away, what better way to celebrate than with a refreshing drink in hand? Grab one of these three and join the revelry.

I've updated my favorite drink, the gimlet, by making it with freshly squeezed lime juice and a touch of syrup for sweetness.

For a fizzy drink, I came up with the Ruby Sparkler, which combines, vodka, ruby red grapefruit juice, and grenadine for a bit of pomegranate sweetness and color.

And the Citrus Breeze is my combination of the most refreshing flavors, rum, mint, and a blend of three different freshly squeezed citrus fruits. There's a drink here for everyone to enjoy.

I enjoy making my own syrups. It's great to have a few different ones on hand. You never know when you might need to mix a drink for friends or family that stop by unannounced.

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cherries.jpgFor the last couple of weeks, I have been unusually happy. It's not the weather or exercise or Prozac. It's cherries. Here's the deal with cherries: their season is ridiculously short, their price is ridiculously high, but the flavor is ridiculously delicious. Who can deny the pure pleasure of eating a sweet-tart, fresh, juicy cherry? It is prime cherry pickin' time. So here's what you need to know about selecting, storing, and cooking with cherries.

When is cherry season?
Most cherries are in season from late May through late July. The season is short: typically 4-5 weeks, peaking at about week 3.

Why are cherries so expensive?

For good reasons: Cherries are highly dependent upon good weather; they're also highly susceptible to insect damage and disease and often require protection from netting or cheesecloth, which is time consuming for farm workers. Finally, they must be picked carefully and are highly perishable since they do not ripen once harvested. This all adds up to a labor intensive and expensive fruit to produce, which is why the price is high. Don't wait for a big sale on cherries; it might not come. If you love them – and you know you do – then just splurge.

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coconuticecreamHomemade ice cream is a great tradition for the Fourth of July. Undoubtedly it hits the spot on a hot summer day. And we all know store bought ice cream is nothing compared to homemade.

When I was sixteen I discovered my love of coconut frozen yogurt. Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt moved into my town and were looking for a bunch of teenagers to hire. It was a chain that was growing by leaps and bounds due to their popularity. After three…long…interviews I was hired. Can you believe three interviews for a job at a frozen yogurt place? Sheesh.

Anyway, coconut was a flavor we had maybe once a month. I loved it and it was all I would eat for the few days we had it. Since then I always seek out coconut ice cream…I never see it anywhere as coconut frozen yogurt…which is okay by me! I prefer ice cream.

So this ice cream…wow. Wow. Wow. It really is the best and there are so many possibilities of toppings, it make me dizzy just thinking about all of them.

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roastedstrawberriesWhen I make a dessert like this, one that is so simple, effortless really, I think back to all the desserts I've put together that take so much energy and time...and I laugh. Because this dessert has so much flavor and tastes so special and really requires nothing from me but a few swipes of my knife.

I have always loved roasting fruit, it brings out incredible flavor and sweetness and these strawberries are no exception. Over vanilla ice cream it is something that can't be beat.

You will laugh too over how little you need to fuss to achieve this flavor. It is also perfect for a large crowd!

Try this tonight, you won't be disappointed, especially if you believe in simplicity.

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