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Do you have a favorite game day appetizer, casserole, or crowd-pleaser recipe? If so, head on over to Stir It Up! to enter a fun recipe challenge. If your entry is chosen as the winner you will receive a signed copy of ESPN‘s cookbook “Taste of the Town” by Todd Blacklege, a former quarterback for Penn State and the Kansas City Chiefs, and current college football analyst.

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Basil limeade

We are fortunate to have a rotating fleet of food trucks that roll up to the curb at the far end of the plaza by the water fountain outside the newsroom. Stepping out of the chilly, air conditioned blasts that pour down our backs all day and into the sunshine is a must at lunchtime. People frequently preface their lunch break by saying, “I’m going outside to warm up.” Strolling down to the food trucks to stand in line only prolongs the welcome break in the warmth.

This summer, I’ve been hooked on the Thai basil limeade from the Bon Me food truck.

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Gourmet on the go

Restaurants are branching out with gourmet food trucks to capture fast-growing trend. Food trucks allow restaurants to experiment with new offerings.

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Nothing beats escaping the office for a summer lunch outside. Maybe you were organized enough to pack your lunch. Even better: Your favorite restaurant rolls up to the curb and hands you a paper carton of teriyaki chicken nestled on a bed of steaming rice.

From grilled cheese to cupcakes to the latest fusion cuisines, a growing number of food trucks are roving city streets as patrons – and now restaurants – discover the ease, ingenuity, and affordability of sidewalk meals.

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Rustic ratatouille

ratatouille

With August’s arrival comes the abundance of fresh tomatoes. A slow-simmered dish like ratatouille is a delicious use of right-off-the-vine tomatoes and should be part of your summer’s repertoire.

Ratatouille, which comes from the French word “touiller,” meaning “to toss,” is literally a tossing in a pot of summer vegetables and simmering them in olive oil: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and seasoned with fresh garlic, basil, and perhaps a bay leaf. There are many varieties of ratatouille. There is the Disney version, made popular by the Pixar film “Ratatouille”; Julia Child sautées the vegetables separately; Alice Waters creates a “basil bouquet” bound with kitchen twine to enhance the flavors of the vegetables as they cook.

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Muffin2

In the spirit of the Stir It Up! muffin mix-off, I was inspired to mix together a batch of these wonderful orange, date, and cinnamon muffins from “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee: Date desserts from everywhere” by Sarah al-Hamad, just out this month from Interlink Books (July 2013).

I had found some dates in my cupboard that needed to be used up. Their sugars were crystalizing on their skin so including them in a baked good was really the best option. I first tried a recipe for date muffins I found on my box of bulger wheat, and while they were certainly tasty and served as a perfect pre-swim treat before swimming across Walden Pond last Saturday morning, they were somehow laking in their small, pale shapes. That’s when I remembered I had a copy of “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee” sitting on my desk at work.

Muffin

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Do you have a favorite muffin recipe? Use that delicious muffin to win a signed copy of “Flour, Too,” the second cookbook by Boston chef Joanne Chang that features recipes for the savory fare that have made her four cafés Boston’s favorite stops for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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salad2

A few weeks ago I received a cookbook to review: “The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook” by Matt Kadey. With summer temperatures in Boston this year especially sultry for days and days on end, tonight seemed like a perfect time to test out one of the recipes.

Flipping through breakfast, starters and sides, main dishes, and desserts, Peach Salad with Chocolate Vinaigrette caught my eye. Fresh peaches, prosciutto, mozzarella, mint, dried cherries, and almonds drizzled with a chocolate dressing? What’s not to like? And it was considered a main dish. Chocolate for dinner, hooray!

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