Tag Archives: fruit

Beautiful Disaster

HEY! Look what I have for you!

Cake, filling and frosting, piled into a fluted glass and garnished with fresh fruit. They are begging to be demolished by your spoon. Strawberry-lemony goodness in every bite. YUM!

I could say that when I got out my little muffin tin and flour and sugar and things that fateful Sunday morning a few weeks back that I intended THIS to be my desired outcome. You would never know, would you? Nope.

Well, that’s not how I roll.

Truth? This is actually what happens when cupcakes fail. I know. Shocking, right? These cute little individual desserts are looking mighty proud of themselves for being composed of a huge, embarrassing failure. 😉

The original goal? Lemon buttermilk cupcakes, filled with homemade lemon curd and topped with creamy strawberry frosting. Luckily, MOST of the pan turned out swimmingly. Only like four failed. One of which I just devoured all alone in the kitchen while standing over the sink with out even the faintest hint of shame. (Great cake, by the way). The other three I made trifles out of with the leftover frosting and filling. So really…win/win (win!)

So what went wrong? I overfilled my tins. Again. I always do this! Argh! So frustrating. I physically cannot stop myself for adding just a tiny bit more batter to each cup. This particular cupcake spread as opposed to puffed, so the cakes with too much batter stuck to the pan wouldn’t come out without breaking apart. Hence the huge embarrassing failure. Although…correct me if I’m wrong but when a recipe says it yields 24, I should be able to cut it in half and get 12, right?

I’m thinking yes.

ANYWAY! Enough about failure. Let’s talk about the SUCCESSFUL cupcakes.

Ooooo. Ahhhhh.

Mainly, I want to talk about the successful frosting. Oh. Em. Gee. The frosting. I’m still reeling from this creamy, dreamy strawberry frosting. This recipe from Martha Stewart is a unique Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream made from combining egg whites and granulated sugar in a double boiler and cooking until the sugar dissolves. Then it’s beaten with a whisk attachment until stiff peeks form. Add butter and the strawberry puree and you’ve got something that’s really pretty amazing.

THIS is how frosting is SUPPOSED to be! Be gone, oh ye gritty, sickeningly sweet, leave the corner pieces cake frosting you are used to. This frosting…well, you may or may not want to sneak off for a private moment somewhere and lick your beater and bowl. It’s okay if you do. I won’t tell. 😉 It’s so smooth and decadent, it’s like biting into a sweet, pink cloud.

STRAWBERRY LEMON CUPCAKES (Cake, filling and frosting all from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

This is just a slightly modified version of Martha’s lemon meringue cupcakes. Instead of topping the cupcakes with the lemon curd, I cut out a small, coned-shaped portion in the middle of each cake, and spooned about 1/2 teaspoon of the filling inside. I replaced the slightly torched 7-minute frosting with the swirly strawberry frosting instead. A delicious and addicting flavor combination with a wonderful presentation. I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Makes 24 cupcakes

First, make the filling:

LEMON CURD

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Next, make the cake:

LEMON BUTTERMILK CUPCAKES

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full (be careful here, start with 2/3rds full and see what you think…) Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Make the frosting and assemble:

STRAWBERRY SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 ounces), rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
  1. Puree strawberries in a food processor. Combine egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
  2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
  3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula and switch to the paddle attachment; continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Add strawberries and beat until combined. Stir with a flexible spatula until the frosting is smooth.*
  4. Using a small paring knife, cut a small cone shaped portion out of the middle of each cupcake. Reserve the cones. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon filling into each cake. Top with reserved cone and press it down slightly into place.
  5. Pipe or spread the frosting on top of each filled cupcake. Garnish with a strawberry and a lemon wedge. Serve immediately. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator but bring to room temp before serving again.

*The frosting can be made ahead of time. Just transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.  ***EDITED***: Beth over at Easy as Pie tried to make this frosting ahead of time and didn’t care for the result. Check out her post to see her experience. Make the frosting ahead at your own risk, I suppose! 🙂

ENJOY! 🙂

Two Years Ago: Banana Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting – another Martha Stewart winner!

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Awkward.

Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is a lot like…wearing someone else’s bathing suit.

The whole situation is the definition of awkward. Something just doesn’t feel right about it. You’re uncomfortable. Squeamish and fidgety. You just can’t stop thinking about how it’s not YOURS.  Oh, and of course you’re concerned about cleanliness – both before and after. 😉

I made this delicious key lime pie at my parent’s house so I guess it wasn’t THAT awkward…and cleanliness obviously wasn’t a problem. They don’t live in the house I grew up in anymore and I just can’t find a thing in there! So maybe I’m not super uncomfortable, but I am super inefficient. Imagine opening every drawer in the kitchen looking for a spatula. Like six times. Even the one with the oven mitts in it!! Every five seconds…OVEN MITTS! DANG IT!

So it may have taken me just a smidge longer than usual to make this pie. And squeezing dozens of tiny limes made it take even longer. And maybe the whole oven mitt thing made it slightly awkward. Once you get passed all that fun stuff, the rest is pretty easy and well worth the effort.

It’s parts are pretty simple and unassuming. Graham cracker crust, creamy custard filling and freshly whipped cream. Together? It’s almost magical. Tropical. Warm ocean breezes. Sand between your toes. Lying on the beach in your (own) bathing suit. Please wear your own. Borrowed bathing suits? That’s just wrong. Anyway, the key limes add such a great tartness to the sweetness and creaminess of the filling. It’s cheek-puckeringly delicious. Give it try this summer!

KEY LIME PIE (Recipe Source: Gourmet, May 2003 via Epicurious.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free with great results)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (about 2 dozen)

DIRECTIONS:

Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make the filling and bake:
Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours. Top with fresh whipped cream before serving. Serves 8.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Blueberry Chipotle Chutney
Two Years Ago: Raspberry Pineapple Sorbet

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Anatomy of Summer

Let’s dissect summer. Let’s cut it open and probe its insides with supplies from your high school biology classroom. Sans Smelly Lab Partner, of course. That kinda sounds like work, huh? And it may get messy, so be ready for that. The goal of this experiment? To figure out what makes summer.

A couple of rules before we get started. I know. I can just suck all the fun out of everything, it seems. Listen up. These rules could save your summer.

Proper attire is required in the lab. Closed toed shoes are not allowed – flip flops only. Put on your safety (sun)glasses on before you begin. Once you get started, a lot of glorious, bright sunshine will pour out. 🙂

Ready? Let’s do this. *fist pump.*

Okay. Here we go. Make a big slit down the center and clear away all the snow, cold and wind to get straight to the good stuff.

Let’s get out our trusty microscopes here and have a look see.

Hm. What do we have here…

Ah…cold, frosty beverages. Of the Not Very Fancy variety for Not Very Fancy people. Enjoyed outside on the deck surrounded by wide open spaces and fresh country air. Yes. An essential part of summer.

Hot grills. Featuring lots of sizzling meats and veggies. (Like red onions to top yummy burgers) Keep that frosty beverage near by! It’s hot out there! 🙂 Also Gotta Have It for summer.

Note the abundance of COLORS! Gorgeous greens. Vibrant pink flowers. Pretty yellow butterflies. Summer is downright stunning, don’t you think? Are you taking accurate notes? This will be on the exam.

Hey! No gum chewing! 😉

Moving on!

For the next part of this assignment, we’re going to see what the inside of summer tastes like. Now, don’t be scared. While winter is bitter and leaves a bad taste in your mouth, summer is oh-so sweet. And full of fresh flavor.

Summer is plump, juicy blueberries that burst like 4th of July fireworks on your tongue.

Summer is succulent strawberries, so candy sweet you’d think they were spun from pure sugar.

Summer is dark, ripe cherries, full of rich juice that stain your lips and fingers.

Perfection.

Now, if we get out our beakers and test tubes and things and mix up all these summer flavors with a few other essentials, we can take all these goodies and turn them into…

PIE! Summer-kissed Cherry Berry Pie.

Wait.

Abort! Abort!

Something went wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

Well, the pie kind of failed but it still tasted great and no one needed to use that creepy eye rinse station thing in the corner of science classrooms, so that’s a plus.

Grade: B-

This pie. Kind of a failure. Why? Because it was way way too runny. Why was it runny? Because I tried to change the original recipe too much. Oops.

The original recipe calls for fresh tart cherries and I subbed sweet cherries. Unless you’re growing tart cherries yourself or have an exceptional farmer’s market near by, good luck finding these. The season is exceptionally short. I have a feeling the dark, sweet cherries we’re all used to are a LOT juicier than their tart brothers. Add berries into the mix, which are super juicy too, and you’ve got a recipe for runny pie filling. And failure.

So. The flavor combo in the filling is all kinds of amazing. I knocked back the sugar a bit to keep it from being too sweet and the flavor was spot on amazing. I loved the crunchy crumb topping too. But, like I said, awfully juicy. So juicy in fact, that I couldn’t actually get a clean slice. Blarg! The ultimate pie failure!

I think the runniness factor can be remedied and I reflected that in the recipe below. I would toss the fruit in the sugar and let some of the juice drain away for an hour or so before putting it in the pie shell. That may help.

If you try this pie and it’s runny, I apologize. At least I’m being honest about my experience! All you baking geniuses out there can make it work, I think! A couple of tweaks and I think this could be a really perfect summer pie. Good luck!

I’m submitting this pie for the July You Want Pies with That? blogging event. I was honored and humbled to choose this month’s Summer Fruit theme! Thanks again ladies!! Can’t see what next month brings.

Class dismissed!

CHERRY-BERRY CRUMBLE PIE (Recipe adapted from: Taste of Home)

INGREDIENTS:

For the pie:

  • 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (or your favorite thickening agent)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Dash salt
  • 1 9-in pie crust

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces.
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine fruit and sugar in a large bowl and let sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour. Drain off as much juice as you can. (Save the juice…add it to lemon or limeade!) Add cornstarch, lemon juice and almond extract.
  2. Roll out pie pastry and place in a 9-inch pie plate. Trim off excess (and use it to make a pretty border, if desired.) Sprinkle the bottom with a little flour. Add fruit mixture.
  3. Make the topping: Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Add butter and cut into mixture with a pastry blender until pea-sized crumbs form. Stir in almonds. Sprinkle topping over fruit mixture.
  4. Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes, until filling is bubbly and topping is browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Serves 8.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Strawberry Blueberry Buckle
Two Years Ago: Oven Fried Chicken

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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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Hypothetically Speaking…

Let’s say there’s a room somewhere where you spend significant time. A room like…say…your office. For at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (if not more, for all the extra special folks out there) you are most likely in your office.

Let’s say you had a choice – from now on, your office can either be too warm or too cold. It can’t be just right. Someone came along and decided all of us nameless, faceless office peons in this world didn’t deserve to be comfortable. That JERK FACE!

Anyway, you must choose to spend at least 40 hours a week in a room that’s either too warm for your tastes or too cold. Of course, this is subjective. What’s warm to you is likely still cold to me. Think about your own personal warm/cold threshold.

Are you thinking?

Okay, now which would choose?

It’s hard, isn’t it? This is your office, so if the room’s too warm it’s not like you can strip down to your birthday suit and work in the buff – unless you work from home, in which case that’s your business. Just remember to cover up before you get on that Skype call with the LA office. Plus, if you’re working on a particularly boring task, a warm room can lead to a serious case of the Afternoon Naps. You’re plugging along entering data into a highly tedious spreadsheet and the next thing you know you’re passed out on your keyboard face down in a pile of your own drool. Not attractive. Also, not a good position to be in when your boss walks by. Just sayin’.

But on the flip side, is there anything worse than being cold? I’m talking chilled to the bone, shaking cold where your fingers and toes turn to little tiny ice cubes. Is it just me, or is it is extremely hard to concentrate like that? Chattering teeth and shaking hands do not a productive employee make. It’s impossible to know how to dress in the morning if your office is too cold – especially when it’s warm outside! People tend to look at you funny if you’re sporting a parka in July. Not that I’ve done that or anything…

Still can’t decide? Allow me to address a few FAQ’s for you.

Q: If it’s too cold, can I wear gloves at my desk?
A: Yes. But as someone who has tried this, prepare for all your work and emails to look something like this: aoihtishgishtisuhgwiethbskgal. Just throwin’ that out there.

Q: If it’s too hot, are electric fans allowed?
A: Yes. Electric fans are permitted if not encouraged. You can even point it straight at your face and hang your tongue out like dog on a car ride if you want – whatever blows your hair back. (Ha. Literally and figuratively)

Q: If it’s too cold, can I sneak a space heater under my desk?
A: Well…technically, you can. Are you supposed to? Mmm…Probably not. Be prepared to explain yourself when said heater blows a fuse and your entire workstation is without power for half a day. Not that I know anything about that either…

Also, space heaters have been known to cause a fire or two. So be careful, friends. Just be careful.

Q: If it’s too hot, can we have afternoon popsicle breaks?
A: Why, yes. Yes you can. Every day, in fact! Popsicles for everyone!

Okay, that does it! If I can’t compose a coherent email because of my gloves and if my illegal space heater is going to go around knocking out power (thus rendering the thing useless anyway) I have decided I’d rather spend 40 hours a week in a room that’s too warm.

As long as there’s fans and popsicles.

Can you tell I get cold at work? Because I do. And it’s so funny because people on the other side of the building are constantly complaining that it’s too hot. This just makes our cold problem worse. Because as maintenance cranks the AC in attempt to cool the other side of building, this side just gets steadily colder and colder and colder. 70 degrees. 68 degrees. 65 DEGREES! I CAN’T WORK LIKE THIS, PEOPLE!

I’ve been over there – to the warm side. I.am.so.jealous. I come up with excuses to walk over there just to GET warm. There’s a water fountain on my side – perfectly capable of refilling my water bottle. But there’s also one in the Desert Oasis (that’s what I’m going to call that side of the building now. Yep.) I’d walk an extra mile in shoes that hurt to get to a water fountain just to be warm for a few seconds!

So clearly while I’m working, I’m not thinking about popsicles. I’m trying to forget that I’m turning in to one. But if I worked on the other side, in that indoor Desert Oasis, I would totally take a popsicle break.

And would do so with these homemade treats!

I guess I would call these Smoothie Pops instead of popsicles, because they are made with yogurt. I used Greek yogurt to punch up the nutrition and add a little extra protein, but any kind will do. I used fresh strawberries and frozen pineapple (because it’s my favorite fruity combo) but any of your favorite berries or fruit would work. The little ice pop molds are really inexpensive and easy to find. I spotted them in the seasonal housewares section at Target over the weekend for about three bucks and snatched them up but I bet you can find them anywhere hyping up summer gear! These are so much fun to make and eat – guaranteed to cool you off!

Oh, so what did you decide? Too hot or too cold? 😉

CREAMY FROZEN SMOOTHIE POPS (Recipe Source: This really isn’t a recipe so…yeah. I’ll just say it belongs to all of us. How’s that? ;))

  • 6 oz. yogurt – any flavor you like (I used plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, whatever you like
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup low fat milk
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of your choice (sugar, Splenda, honey, agave syrup), to your taste (I just used sugar and started with two tablespoons, blended everything, tasted it added 1 tablespoon more, then blended again and it was perfect)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and fully combined. Pour mixture evenly into ice pop mold. Freeze until solid. To remove, dip the mold in a bowl of warm water to loosen and slide out the pops. Makes 4 servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffins
Two Years Ago: Lemon-Scented Blueberry Cupcakes

Don’t forget about my What’s New Cupcake giveaway! You have until Thursday night to enter. Hurry, hurry! Don’t delay!

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Weeded Out

Can we talk about weeds?

Weeds.

They’re all I can think about.

Every time I pull into the driveway.

Weeds.

Every time I glance out the window.

Weeds.

Every time I see our neighbor the Lawn Master suspiciously eyeing our yard from his very expensive and fancy ride-on mower.

Weeds. Embarrassment. Also, the feeling I should go out and apologize to said Lawn Master and beg him not to call the city on us.

Our yard? It’s a weed patch. It kind of looks like that lonely stretch of highway where the weeds grow rampant because of lack of mowing and maintenance. In other words, it’s an eyesore.

Yep. We’re THAT house in our otherwise well-groomed neighborhood. There’s also currently a rusty old farm implement parked on our driveway. So… that’s adding to ambiance as well.

You’re judging us, aren’t you? It’s okay. We know. Let me just say the rusty plow is just visiting and will be making its way down the road to a new home here very shortly. And we’re taking care of the weed problem. Promise.

We’ve had a couple dandelions here and there in our yard every since we moved in. Probably because the yard wasn’t all that healthy to begin with. They’d pop up and we’d just live with ‘em. Eric would mow over them for a couple weeks until it got blazing hot and they all died.

But this year. Yeesh… It’s been wet this spring. And it’s been relatively warm, as far as spring in Iowa goes. Things have been greening up and blooming in our area faster than I’ve ever seen since we moved here. And these little nuisances have completely taken over our yard. They may or may not have choked out the grass completely. Jury’s still out on that one. I mean, these are GIANT, MUTANT weeds. Look at this one:

This is the REDWOOD of Weeds. Look at the trunk on that bad boy. It’s an inch in diameter! THICK.

After I took that picture, Eric annihilated the thing by spraying it with hose at full blast. Where upon he turned to me and said: “I just succeeded in spreading the spores…and watering them.”

Touché, my good man. Touché.

Oh Weeds. You and I…we can’t go on like this. I’m sorry. So so sorry. The landscape guy is coming tomorrow. So…to the left, Weeds. To the left.

In an effort to distract myself from the spring nuisance that is our front yard, I went out in search of some of the great things about spring. The bright, colorful, juicy spring bounty.

And I found it! In the form of my favorite thing about spring…the STRAWBERRY. On sale for an amazing price, no less! SCORE! The first thing that popped in to my head – other than standing over the kitchen sink and stuffing my face with the entire pound, of course – was ICE CREAM!

I love strawberry ice cream. It doesn’t get near the hype it deserves. Vanilla is the big star with all its sundae and a’la mode applications and things. And of course there’s the fancy chocolate truffle, fudge ripple, peanut butter, caramel stuff that certainly has its place at the ice cream table.

But strawberry. It’s so pure. It’s so naturally sweet and delicious. And that color! So perfectly pink. Everyone looks great wearing it. 😉 On their face, that is. It’s reminiscent of bare feet and sunglasses. Sunburns and pool floaties. Maybe it even reminds you of picking dandelions and blowing those puffy white petals into the wind…

Just…not in my yard, k? We have enough of those.

Anyway, this is a quick an easy recipe courtesy of the ice cream master – Mr. David Lebovitz! It’s not a cooked custard type of recipe so the prep work is prety minimal. A quick soak for the berries, a whirl in a food processor or blender and you’ve got the beginnings of a delicious treat. The result?  Oh so good. Smooth, creamy, pink perfection. It’s just bursting with fresh berry flavor. It’s like summer in a bowl! This ice cream does contain one interesting ingredient – sour cream. Now, I’ve said before that I’m not an sour cream fan, but here it works. The slight tang in the background keeps the final result from being too sweet and the thickness of the sour cream lends a great creaminess. If you tend to prefer the texture of the egg-based ice cream recipes, I encourage you to give this a try. I swear you won’t even miss the eggs!

STRAWBERRY SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vodka or kirsch (I used vodka from a very old and questionable bottle that may or may not be left over from our college days.)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Slice the strawberries and toss them in a bowl with the sugar and alcohol.  Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve.  Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every so often.
  2. Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth, but still slightly chunky.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour. (I actually chilled mine overnight) Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Makes 1 1/4 quarts.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Another fabulous strawberry concoction – Strawberry Lemonade!

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I’m (Not) Lovin’ It.

In the interest of being totally and completely honest, I’m about to post a recipe I’m not in love with. If there were some ominous watchful eye that would strike down anyone that tried to modify recipes from the original, I would not be making these again. They’re not worth being stuck down, that’s for sure!

Since that is clearly not the case, I’m blogging this recipe for two reasons. 1. Others might like it. Just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean others feel the same way. And 2. I do believe certain modification could improve the final result.

The recipe: Banana Whoopie Pies. The reason I don’t love them: Well, the texture and the flavor to start out. Hm. Isn’t that what food is? Texture and flavor?

Let’s start with the flavor. Holy Rot Your Teeth Out, Batman! These are insanely sweet. Between the cookie part, the chocolate chips, the nuts and the filling, it’s just too rich for my blood. A little TOO delightful. TOO much of a good thing. I used my tablespoon cookie scoop to shape the pies and found even that size to be far too large. I could hardly finish one they were so rich. And the recipe suggests using a large scoop for the pies – whoa. I can’t even imagine.

And the texture. Now, I’ve never made or had a whoopie pie before so I’m not sure what I was expecting. I guess something a bit more cakey? Lighter than a cookie maybe? Obviously, I have no idea what I’m talking about. These were pretty dense and chewy – like making a frosting sandwich out of banana bread. The recipe calls for two cups of either whole wheat, white whole wheat or all-purpose flour. I used one cup whole wheat and one cup all purpose so I’m sure that attributed to the textural properties of the cookie as whole wheat flour does tend to make things denser. Then with the huge chocolate chips and the nuts, I just couldn’t fall in love with the final product. It was all too much.

Improvements. I think they can be made here. First, I’d nix the whole wheat flour. Maybe whole wheat flour and whoopie pies aren’t meant to be friends. That’s okay. A whoopie pie isn’t supposed to be a shining beacon of nutritional merit anyway.

Second, I’d cut back significantly on the amount of chocolate and use mini-chips instead.  I think minis would disperse more evenly throughout the batter and provide just a hint of chocolate –not overpowering chunks. I’d probably eliminate the walnuts too. I’ve never been huge fan of walnuts, but I thought I’d give it a try and see if I’ve changed my mind.

Upon further review, the answer is no. I have not changed my mind.

Walnuts, meet Cilantro. You two go stand over there and don’t touch any of the other foodstuffs. Thanks.

If you decide to give these a try, let me know! I’d be curious to see what others think. If you make any other changes, I’d like to hear about those too! One of these days, I’ll try these again with the changes I mentioned, but not today. I just can’t eat anymore whoopie pies. For now.

So there here it is, without further ado: A Recipe I Don’t Love.

But you might love it. 😉 You’ll have to let me know if I’m the crazy one! It’s entirely possible. Oh yes.

BANANA WHOOPIE PIES (Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cookies:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 medium to large) mashed bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour, white whole wheat or all-purpose
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk as needed
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional) – I omitted

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and salt until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the bananas. Beat until mixture looks curdled. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  3. Whisk together the flour and baking soda; add to the banana mixture, mixing until evenly combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then mix for 1 minute more. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  4. Scoop the dough by the quarter cup for large cookies, and by the tablespoon for small cookies. Allow plenty of space between them.
  5. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched with your finger, and the edges are a very light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a rack to finish cooling completely before filling.
  6. To make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add just enough milk to make the mixture a spreadable consistency. Stir in the walnuts (if using).
  7. Spread the bottom of one of the cookies with the filling. Place another cookie on top of the filling, bottom side down. Press until the filling just reaches the edges. Makes 10 large or 20 small whoopie pies.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago:
Mushroom Rigatoni Bake – One of my favorites!
Soda Shop Cupcakes – How does a rich chocolate cake smothered in swirls of malted milk buttercream sound? Good, huh?

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“Peace” of Pie

When I was 12 something really bad happened.

It was something so awful, so horrible and wretched I cried for days. DAYS. It was something that took my inflated pre-teen ego and clothes-lined it. Sent it flying, landing on its back with a thud and staring at the stars circling above.  I was stunned. Shocked. In complete and total dismay. How could it be? How could THIS happen to me? TO ME of all people??

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Rainy. Cold. October. Middle school cafeteria with its linoleum floor and teal and red stripes on the walls. Gym uniforms, ponytails, squeaky white shoes. Most of the 7th grade girls are there, all knees and elbows, awkward and a bit clumsy. Skinny legs jump anxiously, butterflies flutter from one nervous tummy to the next as we await our fate at the bottom of the stairs. Girls are ushered through heavy swinging doors three at time, heads high, shoulders back. Smiles bright with braces and colored rubber bands. The unmistakable sounds float from the rafters above – the echoes of shouting voices, the hollow clasp of hands, feet leaving and meeting the floor with each jump, each cartwheel, each handspring. It can only be one thing…

Yep. You guessed it – cheerleading tryouts – the End All, Be All of my 12-Year-Old Existence.

I waited ever-so-patiently through my 6th grade year for the chance to try out for cheerleading as a 7th grader. (6th graders weren’t eligible to be on the team). I eyed the older girls in the hallways on game days with their red and white pleated skirts and matching sweaters, my face pea-stinkin-green with envy. I could.not.wait to be one of them. And being my cocky, invincible, pre-teen self, I was 110% sure there would be a place on that squad for me.

See, by the time I was ready to try out, I had already been cheering for two years in a Pop Warner league. Yes. I had EXPERIENCE. I knew WHAT I WAS DOING. I knew what a Herkie was. I was a FLYER and I had cradled FROM A FULL before. My squad went to actual COMPETITIONS. I had 1ST PLACE TROPHIES at home.

Yep. This thing was in the bag. Easy-peasy. No prob, Bob.

Right?

WRONG.

No one told me (or Will Farrell or Cheri Oteri) that to make the squad at school you have to have…oh, what’s the word…um…TALENT. Yes, you have to be, you know, GOOD. To be a Pop Warner cheerleader you had to get in line on registration day early enough to snag a spot, pay your dues, and show up. That’s about it.

At 12, I was a wisp of a thing, weighing in at staggering 80 pounds. I was gangly as all get out. My arms and legs had grown long and skinny, but the rest of me hadn’t caught up yet. I had no muscle, zero flexibility and I couldn’t tumble my way down a flight of stairs. I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked during that tryout – trying my best and smiling wide – most likely a beat off and step behind the rest of my group.

Still though, after hours of painful waiting that cold October day, I wanted nothing more to than see my name on that list. You understand, right? You tried out for cheerleading too? Surely you remember how important it was to be chosen?

When they finally posted the list announcing the new squad, one thing stood out to me immediately – my name wasn’t on it. I was officially cut. Rejected. I would not be cheering on the BMS boys basketball team from the sidelines in my red and white pleated skirt and matching sweater.

What!? Oh no. Oh no. Oh NOOOOO!

Dreams? Slashed. Day? Ruined. World? Crashing down.

I managed to hold it together as I weaved my way through the throngs of girls, some shrieking in the delight at having made it, others shrugging with indifference to entire situation. Once I hit the door, it started – the epic, blubbering cry-fest that lasted days. I was not going to be a cheerleader and I was never going to get over it. I was devastated. Hell, devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it. Try mortally wounded. Try a shell of my former self.

Of course, I’m poking fun at myself here. A shell of my former self? LOL. Please. Looking back on the Day my Entire World Came to End, I can’t help but laugh. How silly, right? To get so upset about something as trivial as making the cheerleading squad? But you know. You understand. Because you were 12 once too.

Out of this tragedy a new tradition was born. My dad, seeing how upset I was over my cheerleading fate, offered a simple, but amazing gesture to help cheer me up. Even though I’m sure he thought I was being a bit ridiculous (can you say OVERDRAMATIC?), it still broke his heart to see me cry, no matter what the reason.

So, we went out for pie. Just the two of us, late in the evening after supper, we went to Baker’s Square for a slice of pie and a conversation. And although the pie helped cheer me up (I liked the dutch apple the best, warmed, no ice cream, please :)) I think the company cheered me up even more. See, my dad had a way of explaining this so I could understand them. (What am I saying, HAD? HAS a way…) He didn’t coddle me. He didn’t say they made a terrible mistake and that he was going to burst into the front office at school and demand they put me on the squad. He simply said, I needed more practice and could try again next year. He said in life there are going to be disappointments – that’s part of it, so better start getting used to it. He explained the meaning of the word “overconfident” and that it’s good to be knocked off your high horse every now and then – keeps you humble, keeps you thankful. Maybe I didn’t have cheerleading, but I had a warm, cozy bed to sleep in at night, food to fill my belly and a family that loved me very much. And if not making cheerleading was the worst thing that happened to me that year, I was doing pretty good.

Suddenly, it all made sense. The hurt and disappointment just sort of melted away. As quickly as it came, it went. By the time my slice of pie was nothing but a few crumbs and sticky fork, the tears had dried up. I smiled up at my dad. My hero. And I realized I was a pretty lucky girl with the best dad ever. A truth that remains constant to this very day!

After that, whenever I was down in the dumps, depressed, or feelin’ blue, my dad would cheer me up by taking me out for pie. I’m pretty sure, if we still lived nearby my parents, he would STILL take me out for pie. In fact, I know he would! It always seemed to help.

This Pineapple Strawberry Pie is sure to cure what ails ya. If what ails ya is you got cut from the team you are in luck! And if what ails ya is the winter blahs, then you’ve struck GOLD! Pineapple gold! What screams spring more than fresh berries and tropical pineapple? The correct answer is…NOTHING! :)What a fun and delicious combination of flavors!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had pineapple as a pie filling before. When I stumbled on this recipe, I was immediately interested. I wondered if it might be a tad too sweet so that’s where the strawberries came into play. Pineapple and strawberry is one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations and I thought the berries would help cut the sweetness in the filling. The result is a light and dreamy filling that tastes just like sweet, spring sunshine.

The crust and filling come together like any other standard pie. If you can take the time to make your own crust, the results just can’t be beat. In a pinch, store bought works just fine. Make sure you really strain that pineapple – it is very, very wet and it will yield way more juice than you need. I was very pleased that my pie had a nice, tight filling when I lifted out the first piece, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that way if there’s too much juice left in the pineapple. Nothing worse than runny pie filling! 🙂

Hope you’ll consider trying this different twist on a fruit pie! You won’t be disappointed!

And, for what it’s worth I didn’t throw in the towel on cheerleading after my 7th grade tragedy, I kept going with Pop Warner for a couple more years. I did eventually make a few squads – in 8th grade and in high school. And when I eventually got cut from the varsity squad as a junior, it didn’t sting so much. Why? Because I’d grown up. And because I had a great role model. I think we went for pie after that too, but there were more laughs and fewer tears. Thank you, Dad. 🙂

PINEAPPLE STRAWBERRY PIE (Recipe adapted from: Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters)

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • Egg wash

For the filling:

  • 2 20-oz cans unsweetened crushed pineapple (make sure it’s pineapple packed in juice, not syrup!)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 1/2 tablespoons juice from pineapple
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsps. grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS:

Make the crust:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse three times to combine. Add butter and pulse until crumbly. The mixture should resemble small peas. Add water and pulse again until the dough comes together. Remove from food processor and divide the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Make the filling:

  1. Pour the pineapple into a sieve set over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Use a spatula or the back of your hand to gently press the pineapple to remove as much of the juice as possible. Reserve and measure the juice.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 tablespoons of reserved juice and cornstarch until thoroughly combined. Add remaining half cup of juice, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt, whisk until combined. Add the pineapple and strawberries and stir gently until evenly coated.

Assemble and bake:

  1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Place the first disk of dough between two layers of floured parchment paper. Roll into a 12 circle. Carefully lift the crust into the prepared pan, letting it naturally relax into the sides. Do not pull or stretch the dough. Trim off the excess. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with flour. Put the pan into the fridge until cool again, about 15 minutes. Roll out second dough disk for the top crust.
  3. Add pineapple mixture to pie shell. Add top crust, seal and crimp edges and cut slits near the center. Brush the top crust and edges with egg wash.
  4. Bake 30 minutes and check crust for browning. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil. (Which I should have done with my edges, but didn’t. LOL.) Bake another 15 minutes or until crust is evenly browned. Cool pie on a rack for at least two hours before serving. Makes 10 generous servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

PS…I’m going to submit this pie to a fun blogging event called You Want Pies with That? hosted by Amy at Sing for your Supper and Jessica of My Baking Heart! This month’s theme is SPRING! Check out the round-up later this week for other blogger’s delicious, springy pies!

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Here Comes the Sun

Can you feel it? That prickly warm feeling, the stinging in your eyes? That’s the Sun. He’s back. Finally. After a long, cold, lonely winter (do do do do do…)

Oh, Sun how we’ve missed you! So very glad to have you back.

Now….Please don’t go. Oh, please, please don’t go.

You want to see me beg, Sun? Is that what you want? Because I am not above graveling.

We have had a string of warm days here in fabulous northeast Iowa and it has totally wet my whistle for all things summer.

Ooo! Hello, once-purple flip flops! Welcome to your tenth summer of wear!

Hello, t-shirts and tank tops I forgot I had! It’s like a whole new wardrobe!

I’m pretty good at tuning out the weatherman’s warnings too. “Unseasonably warm,” he says. Followed by, “cold front coming through,” “highs in the low 50s” and “rain.”

LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU! Sorry, the sound of my flip flops slapping against my feet is drowning out all predictions of drearier weather ahead. 😉

Can I just tell you my favorite thing about these warm days? After sitting at work under a vent that blasts ice cold AC down the back of my neck for 8 hours (yes, it’s started already) there is absolutely NO better feeling than walking outside and getting into a hot car. NOTHING. So cozy and warm. So nice to have the feeling return to my fingers and toes. Thank you, Sun, for turning my dark car with dark interior into a toasty, little oven of heaven. 🙂

Anyway, with the warm weather, I’m starting to think about grilling. I haven’t yet started to think about dragging the grill out of the garage, giving it it’s yearly bath, refilling the propane tank, etc. etc. etc., but I’m thinking of grilled flavors. Luckily, I can get a taste of it without all the work by using my handy-dandy GRILL PAN!

These Orange-Ginger Shrimp Skewers are a great, bright way to usher in the warmer temps. The sweet and spicy kick from the marinade was so refreshing after a winter of heavy, rich foods. We really enjoyed the citrus flavors here and subbing in pineapple for the orange segments added a tropical feel to the dish. I ended up using ginger powder instead of fresh ginger because the piece of ginger I *thought* I had in the freezer was nowhere to be found! Must have gotten thrown out in clean out in the last few months. When I make this again, I’ll for sure use fresh. The flavor of fresh ginger is important to a dish like this.

Now, I do think the skewers would benefit from the a slower cook over indirect heat on the grill as the sugars in the dish burned a bit in the screaming hot grill pan. Or, it could just be my inability to control the heat on my finicky electric range. It runs at two temps…off and melt-your-face hot. I’ll be trying this recipe again on my outdoor grill once the season really gets rollin’ here!

ORANGE-GINGER SHRIMP SKEWERS (Recipe adapted from: Cooking Light via MyRecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2  cup  fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 2  tablespoons  minced green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  minced peeled fresh ginger (I used 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
  • 1  tablespoon  minced fresh cilantro (I omitted because I don’t care for it.)
  • 2  tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 2  tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1  tablespoon  vegetable oil
  • 2  teaspoons  grated orange rind
  • 1  minced hot red chile (I subbed a jalapeno that I seeded and chopped. Hubs is not real big on spicy so I thought a jalapeno would be add a nice, tame heat in the background.)
  • 1  pound  large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, add shrimp and pour in half the marinade; tossing to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes. Reserve remaining marinade
  2. Remove shrimp from dish, discard shrimp marinade. Thread shrimp and pineapple chunks alternately onto each of 8 (8-inch) skewers.
  3. Heat large grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Cook skewers 4 minutes on each side or until done, basting with reserved marinade.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago:
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
– Includes chocolate! Hooray!
Italian Turkey Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Quick Kicked Up Tomato Sauce – That’s a mouthful! A mouthful of deliciousness!

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Filed under fruit, shrimp