Monthly Archives: June 2010

Blog UPGRADE!

Friends! Hello! I have missed you. 🙂

I’ve been a busy bee jetting from Iowa to Chicago to New York and back again so I’m a bit behind on the old blog here, but I’m popping in for a second to let you know I’ve added a search function to the sidebar! If you’re looking for something in particular, just search away and see what you come up with. I can’t guarantee you’ll find what you want but a little browsing, a little window shopping if you will, never hurt anyone. 🙂

I have brownies and cookies and grilled veggie goodness coming at ya real soon. Stay tuned!

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Daddy/Daughter Dinner (Disaster!)

So, I’ve stuffed your faces with a lot of dessert here lately. Boozy tarts, rich and creamy ice cream, speedy no-bake treats, a refreshing popsicles.

Whew! I don’t know about you, but that sugar coma is definitely setting in for me. 🙂 You’re probably thinking that’s all we eat! If we don’t shape up around here, our angry mothers will be banging on our door wielding piles of green things prepared to hold us down and shove them down our throats. Let’s switch gears and take a look at a healthy and delicious dinner we had recently. Contrary to what shows up in the blog, this IS the typical weeknight meal in my house….lean protein, fresh veggies, and whole grains. Balanced and tasty.

Okay…so THEN I have a bit of all that other stuff (portion controlled, of course) But I clean my plate first. 🙂

As I was making these honey-teriyaki chicken skewers, I couldn’t help but think about my one and only other experience with teriyaki chicken. My dad will remember this too…and laugh about it. It’s a perfect day to share a memory of my wonderful dad seeing as it is Father’s Day and all! 🙂

When we were all just little things with teeth missing from our smiles and poufy bangs, the local Girl Scout council would put on a Daddy/Daughter Dance and invite a bunch of the troops from the area. It was a dress up affair, naturally. All of our dashing dads wore ties and jackets. The attire of choice, for us girls, was poodle skirts. I’m not really sure who decided we should all wear poodle skirts, but you just HAD to have one. Seriously. EVERYONE was doing it. Lucky for me, my mom was pretty handy with a sewing machine and she made me a lovely royal blue skirt with a white poodle on it. It had a rhinestone collar and a loopy white “leash” made out of a braided cord. And it twirled like a dream.

It was all about the twirl. You know what I’m talking about. Mmm hmm.

So all of us girls in our poodle skirts and our dads in their ties, headed for the dance. Occasionally we’d dance with our dads but mostly we just twirled in aimless circles to watch our poodle skirts flair out. I remember thinking I was extra lucky because I didn’t have to SHARE my dad with anyone else. Other dads had multiple daughters to escort to the event…not me though. I got my dad all to myself. I thought that was pretty special. At 8, I couldn’t think of many reasons why having a brother who was bigger, stronger and older than me was much to get excited about, except when it came to Daddy/Daughter dances. Brothers were not invited.

This event involved dinner, of course. A banquet style feast where sullen teenagers in black vests wheeled out carts of mystery meals hidden underneath those silver dome things. Well, one year, after the skirt twirling had settled for the time being and we took our seats at the table, the meal under the dome proved to be a disaster of epic proportions.

Teriyaki Chicken.

The gasp was audible. The faces priceless. As a this plate of slimy chicken covered in a runny, unidentifiable brown sauce perched in front of each unsuspecting girl, everyone looked so horrified you would have thought we were being served a slab of mud crawling with worms.

With faces twisted in absolute horror, a room full of hungry girls, famished after all that skirt twirling business, looked up into the faces of their smiling fathers and concluded loudly “Daddy, I don’t LIKE this!”

Plates skirted across the table as they were pushed away with an “EWWWWWW!”

There may or may not been a few sniffles and tears. Clearly those Girl Scout people were trying to starve us to death.

I don’t think the dads were all that thrilled either, although I think they had the manners to not shout GROSS at their top of their lungs. Good job, Dads!

So we all pushed this chicken slop around on our plates for a few minutes, maybe managed a couple gag-inducing bites. Then they took away all that nastiness and brought out cake or something. All was right with the world after that. We were not about to starve to death. Cake was better skirt twirling fuel anyway. 😉

Despite the meal horror, I always had fun with my dad at our dances. The song “My Girl” will always reminds me of poodle skirts and feeling like a princess. Thanks for being such a great date, Dad! And happy Father’s Day!

For the record, I think they switched to chicken fingers and fries after that. 😉

Theses skewers are not at all reminiscent of The Worst Meal Ever. They are light, tasty and totally satisfying. And healthy to boot! Served up with a side of green beans and healthy, scallion and garlic studded brown rice, it made for a balanced and delicious meal!

When I made these, I came home from work, got my brown rice going, cubed up the chicken, tossed it in the marinade and stuck it in the fridge to hang out for a few while I worked out for a half hour. I like the veggies and meat on the same skewer on the grill, but if you’re worried about the veggies getting overdone, you can do them on a separate skewer. I liked how the tomatoes got all wilty and concentrated and I’ve said before how much I adore bell pepper. The chicken had great flavor for just a few ingredients…a little sweet and a little salty, all delicious.

HONEY TERIYAKI CHICKEN SKEWERS WITH SCALLION BROWN RICE (Recipe adapted from: Great Taste, Low Fat – Time Life Books)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Chicken:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into two inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into one inch squares
  • 24 grape tomatoes

For the Rice:

  • 1 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Start the rice: Bring broth, olive oil and salt to boil in a large saucepan. Add rice and stir. Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow rice to simmer for 45 to 50 minutes without lifting the lid or stirring. The broth should  be mostly absorbed when it’s done.
  2. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, honey, ginger, sesame oil and garlic in a shallow bowl. Add chicken, toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Alternately thread the chicken, bell pepper and tomatoes onto 8 skewers. Grill over indirect heat, for 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Just before serving, stir scallions into the finished rice. Plate rice and place skewers on top of rice. Serve. Serves 4.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Brownie Pudding
Two Years Ago: Classic White Bread

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Easy as Pie

I never understood that expression.

Pie, in it’s entirety, is not all that easy. Everything from the crust to the filling to lifting that very first piece out of the pan without mangling it beyond recognition can be temperamental, tedious and terrifying. Think about all the things that can go wrong with a pie. Tough crust, chewy crust, burned crust. Filling that’s too runny, too dry, too sweet. Murphy’s Law of Pie states: If it can go wrong, it will.

To the non-baker, saying something is easy as pie is like saying easy as climbing Mt. Everest or easy as performing open heart surgery on a squirrel with special tiny instruments.

Unless, of course, you are an actual squirrel surgeon, in which case, I’m impressed. 😉

I like to bake and I consider myself to be pretty good at it…but I don’t think pies are easy. Not by a long shot. I petition that we formally change the expression from “easy as pie” to “easy as tart.” Because tarts are SO much easier than pie. Especially one with no pastry involved.

For this month’s You Want Pies with That? challenge, Suz of You Can’t Eat What? and Sara of Cupcake Muffin chose pretty much the best theme EVER!

Wait for it…

Summer drinks! I’ll take my pie with a cocktail umbrella by the pool, please and thank you! I was so excited about this month and couldn’t wait to reach into the liquor cabinet and start baking!

Now, if I had to choose my favorite cocktail, I think it would be a margarita. On the rocks, straight up, with lots of salt. None of that frozen, blended strawberry, peach, raspberry, kiwi stuff. The classic lime flavor of a really good margarita is the most refreshing thing ever. Booze, citrus and salt…those are the only flavors I’m looking for when I order a margarita.

I’ve had this tart from Guy Fieri for…oh, ever. 🙂 It’s the simplicity of the dessert along with it’s close resemblance to my favorite cocktail that drew me in. I really and truly loved this tart. The filling is smooth, creamy and tart. There is a definite bite of tequila in the background. If you’re sensitive to the taste alcohol, you may want to knock back the amount of booze in the recipe. The best part? It comes together faster than you can say “Another round for my friends!”

The crust is a mixture of vanilla wafer cookies, nuts and melted butter, crushed into crumbs in the food processor and then pressed into a tart pan with a removable bottom and par-baked. The original recipe calls for pine nuts, but those can be expensive and I had some whole almonds leftover from a recent ice cream making adventure, so I subbed those. The filling is a simple mixture made with freshly squeezed lime juice, tequila, eggs and a can of sweetened condensed milk. I used fat-free with great results. Beating the egg whites into peeks is the most time consuming part of the recipe! It all comes together wonderfully. This tart is proof that sometimes, it’s the simple stuff that’s the most satisfying.

Finally, a confession: Since it’s just us eating this bad boy, the decoration piped on is in fact Cool Whip and not freshly whipped cream. Hey, I was busy this weekend…gimme a break.  And actually, I like Cool Whip. LOL. If I was entertaining with dessert (which it is totally worthy of, by the way) I would absolutely use the real stuff. I hope you’ll give this a try soon!

CHEERS! 🙂

TEQUILA LIME TART (Recipe adapted from: Guy Fieri via Foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 10 ounces vanilla wafers
  • 1/3 cup whole toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • Fresh whipped cream, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Add wafers and pine nuts to food processor, pulse until well ground up. Pour into bowl and add melted butter. Mix by hand, with a wooden spoon, and press into 10-inch tart pan.
  3. Place tart pan in the oven and bake for 8 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare filing. In a mixing bowl add egg whites and sugar, beat until there are soft peaks.
    In another mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Gently fold in the egg whites. Pour into tart shell and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool before cutting and serve with fresh whipped cream. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Sauce
Two Years Ago: Pineapple Strawberry Bars

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Cheering for Cherries!

Have you ever stumbled across a recipe you’re dying to try, only to realize the timing is completely off? Such a letdown, isn’t it? Pumpkin is not nearly as appealing in April as it is in October. The outrageously overpriced, hard, tasteless berries gracing your store shelves in January are in no way deserving of your dessert plate. It’s disappointing when the discovery of a recipe gem and the season in which to eat it just don’t match up. We live in a Google-induced, instant gratification kind of world these days…in all areas except for food.

Quick!  What’s the population of Terre Haute, Indiana? What’s the average lifespan of the common fruit fly? How many licks DOES it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

I could probably come up with the answers to all these questions in about 5.3 seconds. Except for maybe the Tootsie Pop thing…the world may never know on that one. 😉

But the only instant gratification you’re going to get when you find a strawberry recipe in January is to Google WHEN the strawberries are best in your area…and then sit back and wait for that day to come.

It’s okay to throw a quick tantrum before bookmarking the recipe and saving it for a rainy day when the ingredients are more appropriate. That’s what I usually do.

::whining:: But I want it nnnnnnnnooooooooowwwwwwwww!

Hi! I’m 3! Have we met?

Anyway, this happened to me twice this past winter around Christmas, when I opened up two separate cookbooks I received as gifts only to be faced with two recipes I just couldn’t wait to try – neither of which would be gracing our table for at least another 6 months or so.

Awwww, Man! Waiting.is.hard.

One of these recipes involves fresh sweet corn. Yep. Still waiting on that one. Only 7 weeks (or so) until sweet corn season! Not that I’m counting. I don’t wake up every morning and think about how we’re one day closer to sweet corn season or anything like that. Nope. I’m not THAT crazy.

Or am I?

Hm. Wonder if Google can help answer that question. 😉 Let me know what you find out.

The other recipe involves cherries. And ice cream. Cherries and ice cream didn’t make a lot in sense in December when this recipe fell into my lap. But now….ah, the snow and cold are gone, the sky is blue and the sun is shining…cherries and ice cream make perfect, harmonious sense.

Well, now you’re going to laugh at me, because I jumped the gun on this one. If I could have held out just a few more weeks, I probably could have made this delectable frozen concoction with fresh, delicious Michigan cherries. But instead…I used frozen.

I’m a little embarrassed by my false start here. I waited so many long months with the intention of using fresh cherries. I was going to lovingly pit and chop each one by hand. What happened?

Two weeks ago, the price tag on the  cherries at the store was still pretty steep. I got scared. What if they weren’t that great? I knew a frozen cherry was going to be ripe and sweet. I also knew I wanted this ice cream and I didn’t want to wait anymore. Frozen was going to have to do. Of course, just today, I opened my mailbox to find my weekly grocery circular only to discover – in giant font and pretty pictures – that cherries are on sale for a GREAT price this week.

Isn’t that always the way?

So what could elicit such a hasty reaction? What could make me dash toward the prize before the whistle blows?

Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry ice cream. With chocolate truffles. Oh yes. It happened.

Let me tell you how much I love this ice cream – frozen cherries and all. This is a smooth, creamy, nutty indulgence that’s just bursting with flavors and textures. This is a sundae in one scoop. It’s so good, it’ll make your knees buckle. (Okay, that’s a little overdramatic, but it is very good!)

The recipe comes from David Lebovitz, and although there are a lot steps and components, the end result is well worth the work. Toasted almonds are steeped in the milk/cream/sugar mixture, strained through a sieve and then squeezed to get as much of the nut oil and flavor back into the ice cream base as possible. Then cherries are simmered on the stovetop with sugar until they are cooked down, tender and render a thick, tasty syrup. The truffles are optional, but why in the world would you SKIP chocolate?

That’s what I thought. 🙂

They are made from a simple ganache that is finished with a bit of liqueur. The end result is a smooth ball of rich chocolate that stays slightly soft when frozen in the ice cream, making them easy to scoop through when ready to serve.

The almond ice cream base is mixed up with more toasted almonds for some crunch, the cherries, drained of the syrup and chopped, and the truffles. Yum. Crunchy nuts, juicy bits of fruit, smooth, rich chocolate. Savor it, my dear friends, and remember this little taste of summer in December when your ass is frozen to the seat of your car and cherry season is just a memory. It may help you get through some tough times ahead.

TOASTED ALMOND AND CANDIED CHERRY ICE CREAM (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup well drained Candied Cherries, chopped (recipe follows)
  • Chocolate truffles (optional, recipe follows)
  1. Warm the milk, sugar, salt and 1 cup of the cream in a medium sauce-pan. Finely chop 1 cup of the almonds and add them to the warm milk. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Strain the almond-infused milk into a separate medium saucepan. Press with a spatula or squeeze with your hands to extract as much flavor from the almonds as possible. Discard the almonds.
  3. Rewarm the almond-infused milk. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly add the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir in the almond extract and stir until cool over an ice bath.
  5. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to directions. During the last few minutes of the churning, add the remaining 1 cup of chopped almonds. When you remove the ice cream from the machine, fold in the chopped cherries and truffles. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

Candied Cherries (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

Makes about 2 Cups

  • 1 pound cherries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 drop almond extract
  1. Remove the stems and pit the cherries. Heat the cherries, water, sugar and lemon juice in a large, nonreactive saucepan or skillet until the liquid starts to boil.
  2. Turn down the heat to a low boil ad cook the cherries for 25 minutes, stirring frequently during the last 10 minutes of cooking t make sure they are cooking evenly and not sticking.
  3. Once the syrup is reduced to the consistency of maple syrup, remove the pan from the the heat, add the almond extract, and let the cherries cool in their syrup.
  4. Before adding to ice cream mixture, drain for about 1 hour or until the cherries feel dry and sticky.

Dark Chocolate Truffles (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

*Note: This is the full recipe for the truffles, which makes about 40 1/2 inch diameter truffles. I knew that would be way too much for one batch of ice cream, so I halved it and it was STILL too many truffles. I have half left in the freezer for another batch of ice cream (not that that’s a bad thing, I’m just saying!) The moral of the story, feel free to adjust this recipe to your needs.

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Congnac, rum or other liquor or liqueur
  1. Heat the cream with the corn syrup in a small saucepan until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until it’s melted and the mixture is smooth. Mix in liquor. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Line a dinner plate with plastic wrap. Form little 1/2 inch truffles using two small spoons. Scoop up a teaspoonful of truffle mixture, then scrape it off with the off with the other spoon onto the plate. Repeat, using all the truffle mix. Freeze the truffles until ready to mix in.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: I came home with a load of goodies from the Wilton Tent Sale
Two Years Ago: Grilled Polish Sausage with BBQ Grilled Onions

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Bad Reputation

Guess what. I’m on to you. Yep. You have quite the reputation, don’t you? Yeah…I know your type. I’ve seen you ‘round these parts before….with your pots and pans – sporting that cute apron of yours. Some might even say people like you – you’re straight up trouble. You’ve got sugar, spices, butter and cream and you’re NOT afraid to use ‘em.

Among your family, you’re The One who Pulls Off Flawless Holiday Meals Wearing Pearls, Heels and an Effortless Smile.

Among your co-workers, you’re The One who Kills Everyone’s Diet Plans by Showing up on Monday with Piles of Homemade Treats.

Among your friends, you’re simply The Crazy One who Actually LIKES to Cook.

Does that sound like you? It’s okay. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, that reputation of yours can work in your favor…. Everyone knows the most effective way to win friends and influence people is to FEED them. 🙂

::evil laugh::

And you LOVE to feed people. You could spend hours – DAYS, even – shopping, chopping, stirring, straining, baking, boiling, toiling…all in the name of feeding people.

Then comes the day, and this day will come, when you are desperate need of something to feed to other people. You forgot about that work potluck. Your husband invites 6 friends over to watch the big game at the last minute.

The situation – is dire. Time – is slipping away. Panic mode – on.

Others throw up their hands in despair and result to store bought brownies and pizza delivery. But not you. You are SUPER WOMAN! Crusader of the Kitchen. Queen of the Cookie. Master of the Mixer!

And you’ve got a rep to protect! So what to do, in this a moment of great despair and darkness? How do you scale the impending mountain that is providing tasty, homemade food when there’s exactly NO time?

You take a small shortcut. All girls with this kind of reputation should have an arsenal of shortcuts in their possession. It’s the only way to stay sane. And since we’re kind of kindred spirits, you and me – seeing as we’re both keepers of this elusive foodie rep within our respective circles – let me share one of my favorite shortcuts with you.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars.

Got that…NO BAKE. No Bake is code for fast. And easy. No Bake means you can make these in pearls and heels before your shoes even start to pinch your feet. These bars…they WILL win you friends. They WILL influence people. And that sweet little rep of yours…will not suffer in the least.

No one has to know how easy they are. I won’t tell if you won’t!

These bars are my go-to Oh My Goodness I’m Panicking Because I Need to Bring Something and Have No Time recipe. They come together in a snap and people LOVE them. They taste just like a peanut butter cup or a buckeye without all that pesky rolling and dipping. Just press into a 9×13 inch pan, smother with melted chocolate, pop in the fridge for about an hour and cut into small squares. They are pretty rich so a little goes a long way. You can feed quite a crowd if you cut them small enough. People just go crazy over these! Can’t beat ‘em!

NO BAKE PEANUT BUTTER BARS (Recipe Adapted from: Verybestbaking.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups peanut butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 12 oz package Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet, milk, dark – whatever you like – I like milk here because it gives these a bit more about Reece’s feel.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Beat 1 1/4 cups of the peanut butter and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then graham cracker crumbs. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Smooth top with spatula.
  3. Melt remaining 1/2 cup of peanut butter and chocolate chips in medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Spread over graham cracker crust in pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chocolate is firm. Cut into bars. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Cool Scallion Yogurt Sauce
Two Years Ago: Bubbly Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Parmesan Panko/Basil Topping

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Filed under bars, chocolate, peanut butter