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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Bechen

Easy Summer Salads & Homemade Muffins at Our Cottage Corner Cafe

Good day from Arizona, where it's been about +110 degrees in the shade! I thought this called for some simple summer salads and iced tea at our new at-home "Corner Cafe."

Our at-home "Corner Cafe."

I thought I would share my easy recipes with you so you can enjoy them too if you wish.

NOTE: I'm big on just kind of dumping things in vs. using a set recipe, just to warn you. For me, that's more creative. I don't do that with baked goods though as that requires more precision unless you want a flat cake or flatbread that should have been sandwich bread. :)

It's easy and okay to just set your meal out and let everyone serve themselves.

The first salad I made was a tuna veggie pasta salad. Steve boiled up some noodles for me and I let them cool in the fridge. I like making this salad as I just toss in whatever I have on hand so it turns out different every time. Today for veggies I added diced peppers, tomatoes, fresh spinach leaves, one shredded carrot and two diced dill pickles. Sometimes I add diced black olives, green olives, capers, zucchini, or any other veggie you like. My spices added in today where dry garlic, dry onion, dill weed, and Mrs. Dash. I personally use dry onion and garlic because it's easy and I don't like my hands to smell nor to wear gloves when I cook. I also added one can of flaked tuna to this pasta salad. I used twisted pasta and sometimes I use shells for a nice look if I take this somewhere but any pasta will do. I put about one cup mayo and stirred it up! If you make this late at night for the next day and put it in the fridge the spices will soak into the pasta and mayo and give it great flavor. Plus, it will be nice and cold for summer sizzling temps. :) It's such a wonderful salad for dining alfresco or to take on a picnic in your cooler.

My new bowls are from Pioneer Woman. I love the four little covered bowls that came with them as a "bonus." Great for leftovers.

We love to have lunch in our Secret Garden.

Next up was a fresh fruit salad which was sliced fresh strawberries, blueberries, one banana, and a can of pears with juice that I chopped up with my pizza cutter. Yes, really.

It works so fast to use a pizza cutter!

I try to keep our meals simple and nutritious as shhhh, truth be told, I don't love to cook like some people do. I do it because I must and so I try to have a good attitude about it, make it as easy to do as possible, and I try to keep my kitchen clean, organized, and a little bit cute to motivate me.

Our galley kitchen is small, but organized and decorated in a style we both like.
Here's how I really feel about cooking! Humor always helps!

Now let's talk about how I make iced tea the super easy way ...

I use my two small electric kettles to heat the water to boiling. Then I pour it into my ceramic teapot with two tea bags and let it steep about 10-15 minutes. It will be cooler by then too, so I just pour half of the tea in a carafe like this and the other half in another carafe as they fit in my fridge door perfectly. I add water to the top of each and you are done. Fill your glass with ice when you're ready to drink it and you're good to go. (BTW, we love our ice maker, which you need living in the Arizona desert!)

NOTE: The square carafes fit in my fridge door better and don't bounce around. Just a note to consider.

Applesauce muffins are the best in the world!

Okay, now for the best accompaniment to summer salads in my opinion: a homemade muffin. Here's my fave basic recipe I use all the time and just vary the add-ins. These can be frozen and after they are frozen, they heat up later in the microwave just dandy, becoming even moister.

Easy Gluten-Free Egg-Free Applesauce Muffins

2 cups GF flour (or regular flour if you don't need GF)

1 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt (optional)

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 "flax egg" which is 2 T. boiling water mixed with 1 T. of ground flax seed. Let sit until it turns to a gel-like consistency.

1 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (You can freeze any leftover applesauce from the jar.)

1/4 cup olive or melted coconut oil

1/2 c. milk or I use oat milk

1/2 coconut sugar or brown sugar if you prefer

1/2 t. vanilla (I leave this out now as it's so expensive I refuse to pay that price and I have not noticed it tastes any different at all by leaving it out.)

Whisk all dry ingredients in one large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl along with the sugar. Then add the wet ingredients/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well.

Lastly, add in whatever you want: chocolate chips or chunks, raisins, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, walnut pieces etc.

Put batter in greased or lined muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees til center comes out clean. Check center with a toothpick at 30 minutes and 40 minutes to be sure you don't over or under bake them. Here's the muffin tin I use and we don't have to grease it.

I hope you enjoyed my m.o. for an easy, yummy, dollarwise summer meal. Sometimes I think people don't want to cook at home because it seems like an overwhelming amount of work. (And it is work to plan, shop, and cook, so I get that.) But if you keep meals simple and organize your kitchen well, it really helps the overwhelm, plus it's healthier to make your own meals at home too if you use fresh ingredients. Not to mention how much money it saves over eating out. Make your dining area in your home aesthetically pleasing, and you can dine like a "Dollarwise Duchess" at home!

Our palm trees just got a haircut!

This is our view outside our at-home "Corner Cafe." Once a year our housing development has our palm trees trimmed and within a year they are lush and full yet again. I love palm trees so much!

I snapped these "twins" a couple of years ago when we were out for a drive.

July 4th weekend it will be six years since we moved to The Valley of the Sun and I still am in love with photographing cactus.

Happy sizzling summer!

Kathryn :)


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