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Quick ‘cream’ of asparagus

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This soup is easy to make and so delicious you’ll forget it’s good for you. Using potatoes means there’s no need for heavy cream, making it perfect for people watching what they eat.

Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 2 bunches of asparagus (about 4 cups), trimmed and chopped
• 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
• 4 cups chicken broth
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat, until they start to become golden. Add the asparagus and potatoes and sauté for another two minutes.
2. Add the chicken broth and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.
3. Purée until smooth with an immersion blender, or in several batches in a regular blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
4. Serve and enjoy.

The best way to trim asparagus is by holding the stems in one hand and the bottoms in the other and bending. The stalks will snap at the perfect place, just where they begin to get hard and woody.

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Food

Cold eats for hot days

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On hot summer days, the idea of turning on the stove or oven can be unpleasant. Here are a few meal ideas for times it’s too hot to cook.

Gazpacho
There are many variations of this cold Spanish soup, but most include cucumber, tomato, bell pepper and garlic. To make your own, combine your choice of vegetables in the blender and season with some salt, pepper, a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Top with toasted croutons for an authentic, traditional touch.

Salad

There are almost infinite ways to make a delicious salad, so let your imagination guide you. Start with a base of leafy greens, potatoes or pasta. Add seasonal veggies and a protein like pre-cooked chicken or grilled tofu. For a simple dressing, mix lemon juice with extra virgin olive oil.

Spring rolls
Let everyone in the family make their own fresh spring rolls. Simply assemble the ingredients you want to use including rice paper wrappers, vermicelli rice noodles, julienne style veggies and your choice of protein, then combine them to make your rolls.

If you find rice paper wrappers hard to work with, substitute them with lettuce leaves. Use a premade sweet chili sauce for dipping, or try your hand at a peanut sauce using natural peanut butter, soy sauce and garlic.

Some days it can feel too hot to eat, let alone prepare a meal. Keep yourself and your family nourished with one of the above eats, or simply prepare a platter of fruits, vegetables and cold meats. Bon appétit!

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5 common types of dessert wine

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Dessert wines are a delicious way to conclude a meal, either on their own or paired with food. Here are five of the most common types.

1. Ice wine
Making ice wine, or eiswein as it’s called in Germany, involves allowing grapes to freeze on the vine. The fruit gets harvested and pressed while still frozen so that the juice released is concentrated and sweet. The best ice wines are crisp, intense and elegant.

2. Noble rot

This style of dessert wine is highly prized. To make it, dehydrated grapes covered in the fungus Botrytis cinereal are carefully harvested and pressed. The most famed noble rots are Sauternes from France.

3. Late harvest
Making this type of wine involves leaving grapes on the vine until they are extremely ripe and sweet. This wine has higher sugar and alcohol levels than other wines and a more complex aroma.

4. Dried grape wine
The traditional way to make this type of wine is to let the harvested grapes dry on straw mats. In some regions, however, they’re dried right on the vine. In either case, the resulting wine is imbued with flavors of cooked fruit, honey and spice. The most well-known type of wine in this category is Amorone della Valpolicella.

5. Fortified wine
This variety of wine has a distilled sprit added to it — usually brandy — either during or after fermentation. These wines can be sweet or dry and contain more alcohol than other dessert wines. Common types include port, sherry, grappa and vermouth.

If you’re pairing your dessert wine with food, aim for balance and flavors that complement rather than overpower each other.

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Food

How to preserve fresh berries

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While having an abundance of fruit on hand is a happy problem to have, keeping your berries from going bad does present a challenge. Here are four great ways to preserve them.

1. Make jam. To turn your berries into jam, all you need is a pot, your fruits, some sugar and pectin. Make certain you properly seal your jars to ensure the jam’s safe to eat for up to a year. Homemade jams are perfect for spreading on toast or slathering over a bowl of ice cream.

2. Dehydrate them. Turn your oven into a dehydrator. Place berries on a baking sheet on the middle rack, and set your oven to the lowest heat possible. In a few hours, you’ll have dried berries to snack on, mix into trail mix or even bake with.

3. Make freezer jam. Freezer jam is thinner than the cooked variety, but tastes more like fresh berries. First crush the berries and then mix them with sugar and no-cook pectin (available at most grocery stores). Spoon the mixture into small jars and freeze it.

4. Freeze them. Having frozen berries on hand is great for making smoothies, oatmeal and baked goods all year round. You can also try them thawed and topped with heavy cream and maple syrup for a decadent dessert. Before freezing, lay them out in a single layer in a freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible.

These preserving methods will allow you to enjoy fresh berries long after the season has ended.

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Food

Blueberry crumble cake

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With its juicy blueberries and crunchy topping, this cake is perfect for serving to company — or eating for breakfast!

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active)
Servings: 10

Ingredients

Crumble
• 1/2 cup rolled oats
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup melted butter

Cake
• 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 1/2 cup melted butter
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1-1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 ºF. Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry crumble ingredients and then add the butter. Mix and set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt.
4. In a third bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Gradually mix in the vanilla, eggs and milk until smooth.
5. Add a third of the flour mixture at a time, gradually combining the ingredients until you have a uniform batter. Add the blueberries and stir.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and top with the crumble.
7. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry.
8. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Vegetarian options for your next barbecue

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Do you think cooking on the barbecue is reserved for meat eaters? Think again! Here are some easy ways of making your next cookout vegetarian-friendly.

Side dishes
Meat eaters and vegetarians alike will appreciate having grilled vegetables to accompany their main dish. Zucchini and eggplant are delicious when cut lengthwise, seasoned and cooked on an oiled grill.

If you prefer to cook an assortment of veggies, cut them into even-sized cubes and season them as desired. Once they’re ready to be cooked, wrap them in a piece of aluminum foil and place them on the barbecue to be steamed.

Main courses
There are vegetarian substitutes for almost all grilled meat dishes. For example, as an alternative to hamburgers you can buy pre-made veggie burgers or try your hand at making your own. A great replacement for ground beef is a mix of black beans and tempeh (a product made from fermented soybeans).

If you’re serving brochettes, replace the meat with more vegetables or with chunks of marinated tofu.

Remember that many vegetarians prefer that their food not come into contact with meat, so a clean grill is recommended. When cooking meat and non-meat dishes, cook the vegetarian items first or simply dedicate a portion of the grill to plant-based food.

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Lesser known berries to look out for

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Cloudberries

Come summer, we enjoy the abundance of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and even blackberries that are available. But these aren’t the only berries that grow locally. Here are some lesser-known varieties to try this season.

Sea buckthorn
One of the most vitamin-packed and nutrient-rich foods in the world, this tiny orange berry definitely packs a punch. Grown all over the world, sea buckthorn is very sour when raw, but it makes delicious jams and syrups.

Elderberry

These native berries grow wild all across North America, and you might have a better chance foraging for them than finding them at your local grocery store. Elderberries can be toxic when raw, so they need to be cooked before you can eat them.

Cloudberry
These northern berries look like orange raspberries but have larger drupelets. Native to Canada, the northern United States and Scandinavia, these tart berries can be eaten raw or used in the same way you would raspberries.

Huckleberry
Often compared to blueberries, these small red or purple berries grow across the United States. Annual huckleberry harvest festivals are held and enjoyed in numerous American towns.

Traditionally, they were very important to the Indigenous Peoples of Idaho, Montana and Washington.

While some of these berries may be hard to find, tracking them down is worth the effort. They may be easiest to come across in the form of preserves and jams.

If you forage for wild berries, it’s essential to have a good guide or a deep knowledge of local plants. Only eat fruits that you are 100 percent certain are safe to consume in terms of their variety, their ripeness and their preparation method.

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1:30 pm Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jul 23 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
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6:30 pm Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
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Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
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