Monday, December 13, 2010

Mini Pavlova with Fresh Berry Salad

At my school, we are celebrating various "Australia Days" as a part of the cultural learning experience for the students. One of the many kind things our mothers have done for the staff is bring Pavlovas for the entire staff. Pavlovas are the national dessert of Australia. It is a meringue shell filled with whipped cream and then topped with a fresh berry salad.

When we had these, I knew I had to go home and make some that night. I made these in individual formed cups, just like our lovely mothers made for us. They are a truly light, airy, and elegant dessert that would be a beautiful and unique addition to your holiday dessert table. Not only are these impressive, but they are surprisingly simply to put together.

Mini Pavlova with Fresh Berry Salad

6 egg whites (I used extra large eggs)
1/8 tsp of salt
1 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups heavy cream, whipped and sweetened with 2 tablespoons sugar (or go ahead and be a cheater, get fresh whipped cream from a can!)

Fresh berries - I used:
blueberries, rinsed
raspberries, rinsed
strawberries, rinsed, cored, and sliced

Preheat oven to 250°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks are reached, about 5 minutes. Add salt and then the cup of sugar gradually, in tablespoon increments, while continuing to whip, until a very stiff meringue is obtained. Fold in cornstarch, then fold in the vinegar.

Spoon meringue into 5-inch round circles. Use the back of a spoon to spread the meringue evenly and flatten the center, making a hollow to hold the cream and berries.

OR fill a piping bag fitted with a large tip (I used #6) with the meringue and pipe into small cup shapes (make a solid base and then pipe in a circle going up to make the cups).

Bake for one hour or until lightly brown and quite firm. Turn oven off and leave meringues inside with door closed, for one more hour. Remove and set in a dry area to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare berry salad by mixing all berries together. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and toss. Chill until ready to serve.

To finish, carefully set meringues on individual dessert plates. Top each one with whipped cream and berries.


Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Sauce

Run, do not walk, to your kitchen and make this recipe IMMEDIATELY. If you are a fan of bread pudding, this recipe will throw you over the edge of insanity with its deliciousness...if you don't really like bread pudding, make it anyway. You will change your mind!

I first tasted this recipe at Famous Dave's BBQ. Once I went searching on the internet, I found this recipe circulating. It came directly from Famous Dave's website and I did not change it - it really didn't need changing at all.

The pecan-praline sauce is AMAZING. Truly. One big note about the recipe, though, is that is says "makes about 4 cups." I don't know what kind of "cups" Ol' Famous Dave uses, but when I made it, it was about 12 cups. But, I didn't mind one bit. I've since used the sauce over vanilla ice cream and over french toast and gone into a praline coma. Feel free to do the same!

Bread Pudding
1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf cinnamon egg bread (*See Note Below!)
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup vanilla extract
8 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Spray the bottom and sides of a 13X9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces. Mix with the raisins in a bowl. Spread the bread mixture evenly in the prepared dish, turning crust side down as this tends to burn easily. Whisk the sugar, milk, 2 cups whipping cream, vanilla, eggs and cinnamon in a bowl until blended. Pour over the bread mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the baking dish in a 4-inch deep baking pan. Add water to reach halfway up sides of the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove from water bath. Let stand for 20 minutes. Serve while still warm. Drizzle each serving with warm Ol’ Southern Plantation Praline Sauce (recipe below). Top with whipped cream and add a scoop of ice cream if desired.

Yield: 9 enormous servings

*Try as I might, but I could not find "cinnamon egg bread." Instead, I used a loaf of Challah bread with raisins that I found at my local grocery store. Then I just added a little more cinnamon to the mix. Hope this helps!

Pecan-Praline Sauce
2 cups unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 pounds light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add the pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil. Cook until the pecans begin to change color. Be careful! This mixture will foam over, so use a large saucepan.

Add the remaining 1 cup butter and mix well. This will cool the pecan mixture and stop the cooking process. Remove from heat.

Combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon in a saucepan and mix well. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly; increase heat. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in pecan mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat. Yield: 4 cups (not really, see note above!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Recently, I found some amazing apples on sale at my grocery store. Normally, I see apple desserts as more of a Autumn comfort food, but I just couldn't resist. I decided to make homemade Apple Cake. Once I made it, I decided to go on caloric overload and add some homemade caramel sauce. Oh man....the cake was pretty great on it's own, but the caramel sauce really did me in. It was so simple, too. Eat this cake heated with the caramel sauce and some vanilla ice cream and you're in Heaven....

Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 /2 tsp. baking powder
1 /2 tsp. salt
1 /2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 /2 tsp. ground nutmeg or mace
1 /2 tsp. ground ginger
3 cups peeled, diced tart apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric or hand mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to mixture slowly, in batches. Stir in apples. Spoon into greased 8X8 pan.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

Optional: Add 1/4 cup chopped nuts to recipe at same time as apples.

*Note: this recipe is for an 8X8 pan but could easily be doubled for a 13X9

Homemade Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 C water
1 C sugar
1 C heavy cream, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until the mixture is thick and the color of straw, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the mixture is a deep amber color, about 1-2 minutes more.

Remove the mixture from the heat. Very carefully, pour about one quarter of the cream into it (the mixure will bubble vigorously). Add the remaining cream, salt, vanilla, and the lemon juice. Whisk until the sauce is smooth.

The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Reheat in a microwave or in a small saucepan until warm and smooth.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food for the Soul

I know it's been over a month (eek!) since I've last posted. Things got really busy with the baby and holiday orders for decorated cookies....more on that in a bit*....

But, worry-not my faithful readers, I have a stockpile of really delicious recipes coming your way - just in time for the Holidays! Appetizers, pie, desserts, and dinners galore!

I can't promise it will be good for your waistline,
but food is always good for your soul.

So sit back, relax, and get ready for a barrage of new recipes! :)

* I've also started taking orders for decorated sugar cookies in my local area, hence, the lag in blogging. Now that things have calmed a bit, I plan to be back at it very soon. I am even considering a separate page on this blog to showcase the cookies I've made :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beer Bread

While making beef stew, I realized that I needed a hearty bread to go with it. I am not a typical bread-maker, so I wanted something quick and easy. I remember LOVING the Tastefully Simple beer bread, but didn't have any on hand. A quick internet search (what would we do without Google?!) and I found a "copycat" recipe that I thought looked pretty good.

Turns out, this version is really close to the original. I couldn't really tell any difference, so I will be making this from now on....much cheaper than actually buying the TS kit too!!

Beer Bread

3 C. self rising flour
1/2 C. sugar
12 oz. beer (seasonal or flavored beers are great, but any beer will do! You can also use another carbonated drink if you don't have any beer on hand)
3 Tbs. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, and beer. Mix just until combined. Spoon into a greased loaf pan. Pour melted butter over the batter and bake for 55-60 minutes.

Homestyle Beef Stew

With summer officially over and fall making way toward the colder months of winter, I am really excited to start cooking some hearty fall meals. One of my all-time favorites is beef stew. This one-pot meal is a great Sunday night dinner because the longer you allow the meat to cook, the more tender it is.

While this isn't a quick meal, it's definitely worth the wait. Plus, the smells that fill your house are warm, comforting, and make you look forward to dinner (and leftovers!)

Homestyle Beef Stew

2 lbs. lean beef (round steak is a good choice here)
4 tsp. salt, divided
3 tsp. pepper, divided
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 lg. can tomato sauce
2 C. water
3 bay leaves
1/2 C. good quality red wine (use anything that you'd drink by the glass - and pour yourself a glass while you're at it!)
4-6 potatoes (I like Yukon gold or baby red potatoes - no need to peel these!), cubed
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package of frozen peas

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot. Sprinkle meat with 1 tsp. pepper and 2 tsp. salt. Brown the meat until well seared. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits as you stir. Add the tomato sauce, water, salt and pepper, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

Add the potatoes, carrots, and onion. Cook on low until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through. Add the frozen peas and turn off the stew. Find and remove the bay leaves. Serve with beer bread or cornbread. Enjoy!

*Note - if you feel like your stew is too thin, or you don't have enough time to properly simmer the stew to thicken it, you can mix 2 Tb. of cornstarch with water and add the the stew. This will thicken it without altering the taste or texture.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Caramel Club Bars

I came across these interesting little treats and was a little see, they acutally use Club crackers. Yep, plain crackers...weird, right? But believe me, these are really, really good! I also brought these to a party, cut into pretty small squares, and they were the perfect after dinner bite of sweet and salty

One tip to remember: You must use unsalted butter for this recipe, if you don’t they will be too salty

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Caramel Club Bars

45 Club Crackers
2 sticks butter
1 Cup packed light brown sugar
1 Cup peanut butter chips
1 1/2 Cups chocolate chips, melted either on double broiler or in microwave

Place 15 club crackers in the bottom of an 8×8 inch square baking pan that’s been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 Cup peanut butter chips on crackers.

Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat stirring constantly for 4 minutes, until bubbly, smooth and creamy caramel forms. Pour 1/2 Cup or so of caramel over peanut butter chips then add another layer of crackers, peanut butter chips and caramel. Top with one final layer of crackers then spread with melted chocolate.

Cut into 15 bars (or more. I cut them into smaller, bite-sized bars and got about 25 bars)

Jalapeno Popper Dip

For a Halloween party, I decided to bring a really easy appetizer. That way, I could enjoy the party without having to worry too much about what I brought. This dip turned out to be really popular at the party and it's amazing how simple it is. Just mix everything a bowl, sprinkle the bread crumb topping, and bake.

The dip would also be a really great addition to any Sunday Football party or another crowded get-together. I served it with slices baguette (my favorite) and also a carrot, snap pea, and broccoli medley to give it some color and make me feel slightly less guilty about all the creamy goodness!

Oh, and please forgive the photo. I'm not kidding when I say that people plowed into this so fast that it was hard to get a good picture. I even heard that whatever was leftover after I'd left was eaten by the spoonful by a few of the guys! Plus, I was ready to get partying, so you'll have to trust me on this one. It not only tastes amazing, but looks really pretty in person too. Oh, and you can always check out Annie's Eats (where I got the recipe) for a beautiful picture of the dip.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
1 (4 oz.) can chopped mild green chiles
1 (4 oz.) can diced hot jalapeƱo peppers
1/2 cup shredded Mexican style cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, green chiles, jalapeƱos, and shredded cheeses. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula until smooth and evenly combined. Spread the mixture into a baking dish (approximately 9 x 9-inches).

In a second bowl, combine the Panko and Parmesan and stir with a fork until combined. Sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture in the baking dish. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is hot and the topping is golden. Serve warm with baguette slices, vegetables, etc. as desired.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Decorating sugar cookies is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays. For a long time I was on the search for a good icing that would dry hard, but also taste good. What I love about these cookies is they are cute but, more importantly, they taste amazing and are easy to transport. I included that recipe below, but the real fun of these cookies is how festive they are!!

For the pumpkins, a little orange cake sparkle on the wet icing really made them POP! They went from ok to fantastic in one simple step!

These spider webs were really fun because I was trying out a new flooding technique. My husband even asked if it was a sticker that I bought and put on the cookies - silly man! They are really much easier than they look. Next time, I think I will add a little green spider.

These were the first Halloween cookies that I made and I still love them. I think that next time I will make some "girl" skeletons by adding a bow - how cute would that be?!

Finally, these were the "leftover" cookies. I was really just using them to practice writing with icing and I wanted to use the orange sparkle again!

So....what fun things are you making for Halloween??

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. flavored extract (I used Almond this time but lemon, orange, almond, etc. would be great to use!)

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.) Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.

Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.

Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.

Recipe from Annie's Eats - originally from Good Things Catered

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies with a Candied Ginger Topping

These little squares are like a mouthful of Fall!! But in a good way...not a mouthful of leaves kind of way. In other words, I loooove them. I came across them the other day and they immediately jumped to the top of my "Desserts To Try" list (by the way, that list is never-ending...)

I am so glad that I made it because I will now be making it all Fall. These blondies are sweet and chewy with just the right amount of pumpkin. Also, the candied ginger is a MUST! I'd never cooked with it, but here is makes a chewy/sugary topping that is amazing with the pumpkin and spices. Make these for your next Halloween party or keep them all to yourself!!

Pumpkin Blondies with a Candied Ginger Topping

1/4 Cup butter
1 3/4 Cup white chocolate chips, divided (this was one bag for me)
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1/2 Cup pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 Cup chopped crystallized/candied ginger

For the glaze:
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
4-5 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a double boiler (small pot over another small pot with simmering water), melt butter and 3/4 C white chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Set aside.

In a large bowl add sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and 1 C white chocolate chips (this should be about the rest of the bag). Stir in melted chocolate/butter mixture. In a small bowl, beat eggs and sour cream. Add to the large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until just combined.

Pour into a foil lined 8×8 inch baking pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Top with 1/4 Cup chopped candied ginger. Bake for 28-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center. Let cool completely, cut into squares then chill in the refrigerator (it makes them dense and chewy!)

Meanwhile, mix heavy cream and powdered sugar in small bowl until smooth, drizzle over blondies just before serving.

Makes 9 blondies
adapted slightly from Picky Palate

Saturday, October 9, 2010

(Accidental) Chicken Chili

Yesterday I had decided that it's getting cool enough and "Fall" enough to have some chili. I LOVE my dad's chili recipe and was really excited to have some chili and cornbread. Let's fast-forward to my poorly planned attempt at dinner...

The baby's asleep so I think "Perfect! I'll whip up some chili and let it cook while we play a little bit." Problem ground beef, no turkey. This isn't too much of a problem because I had some ground chicken. I've never had chicken chili but have at least heard it's good, so let's give that a try.

Starting to get things rolling, everything's smelling great then - BAM! It hits me....I have no beans. Normally in dad's chili there's red kidney beans and some Brooks' Chili Hot Beans. I have neither...this is where the poorly-planned part becomes clear. I have dinner started and almost none of the main ingredients. Ooops....

But, rest assured, I got creative, found some great things that were hiding in the pantry and made an incredible dinner. No one was the wiser. Except my husband, who when I told the story to, laughed and said "Yeah, I'm not surprised..." Thanks a lot buddy! :) But my poor planning was everyone's reward because this chicken chili is a new family favorite. It's full of flavor, easy to pull together, and a uniquely different take on traditional chili.

So, as the weather's getting cooler, think about making this one-pot-wonder, cozy up on the sofa, and enjoy!

(Accidental) Chicken Chili

1 lb. ground chicken (I'm sure shredded chicken would be good too, so use that if you have it left over!)
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 package Chili-O seasoning mix
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can garbanzo beans
1 chipotle in adobo, diced
1/4 C. brown sugar
garlic salt

Brown the meat with onion and peppers. Add remaining ingredients and enough water to desired thickness (be careful not to make it too soupy. I usually only add about 1/2 - 1 can if it seems really thick or if it will be on the stove a long time). Simmer for at least 30 minutes so all flavors can come together. Serve with corn bread or over elbow noodles for chili-mac!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am ridiculously excited to share this recipe with everyone. I have been looking for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie for years....literally years. Sad? Yes. Pathetic? Probably. But, alas, it is also true. You wouldn't think that the recipes are that different...same basic ingredients thrown together in a pretty typical fashion. But, for some reason every chocolate chip cookie recipe I have come across has either turned out too thin and crispy (too much butter?), too cakey/ puffy (too much baking soda?), or just...gross. I have been in search of the PERFECT chocolate chip cookie, and I have finally found it.

I truly think that everyone should have a "go to" cookie recipe. This has definitely become mine. To me, these cookies just say HOME. They have crispy edges, a soft center, and just enough chocolate chips. Also in this recipe, you do not use the entire bag of chocolate chips - weird, right?! That's what I thought....but the balance between all of the ingredients come together perfectly to make one irresistible treat and there's the perfect amount of chips, I promise!

The shaping method here is definitely different, but I think that it's worth the one extra step. Plus, it's pretty fun too!

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.

Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (about 13 minutes - cookies will settle a bit while cooling).

Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe found on Annie's Eats (thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peach Preserves

Not that I needed an excuse to use up some summer peaches I have, but I did find an AMAZING way to make the distinct taste of summer last all winter. My uncle made these peach preserves and this recipe is so good. We (ok, mostly I...) plowed through his batch and just had to make a batch of our own. It's as fresh tasting as it is addicting. I just spread it on crackers and eat it, but you can also use this recipe as a glaze over chicken or pork. So simple, very impressive, and defintely worth the canning effort!

Peach Preserves
(thanks to my uncle for the fool-proof recipe!)

3 lbs peaches, "cling free" ( they are much easier to work with like Red Haven)
1/4 cup of lemon juice
7 1/2 cups of sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin - 3 oz.

Boil a pot of water and drop peaches in for about 1 minutes. This will soften the skin and it should come right off. Remove the pit and discard. Finely chop skinned and pitted fruit. You should get about 4 cups of fruit.

Wash canning jars in your dishwasher on hottest setting and leave them in there until ready to use. Put lids into just simmering water on stove and let them stay. Put bands into a bowl and pour boiling water over them just until covered. Bring your boiling water canner, half full of water, to a simmer.

In a 6-8 quart heavy saucepan, mix exact measure of fruit, stir in lemon juice and sugar. Bring mixture to a roiling boil. Add pectin and bring back to a roiling boil for exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.

Ladle hot jam into prepared jars to within 1/8 of top. Place lid on and secure with band tightly, but not too tight. You should get about 8 - 8 oz jars.

Put jars on a rack in boiling water canner and bring to a gentle boil. Jar should be covered by 1-2 inches of water. Process for 10 minutes.
Remove jars and place upright on a towel to completely cool. After jars are cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back it is not sealed and should be refrigerated.
Let stand at room temperature to help with the setting process. This can take awhile, so be patient. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

As much as I love fall, I tried to make it come a little early this year! In the beginning of September, the fam and I went to an apple orchard with great friends and their daughter. We had a blast despite the cold, rainy weather and terrible apple selection. The orchard lady wasn't joking when she said that the apples were really picked over already and that we'd have to hunt for the good ones.

Despite a few bruises (the apples, not me) I found some great apples of all different varieties. We couldn't possibly eat them all, so I got a great recipe from my friend Kathy (the great friend we went picking with!) She's been making this applesauce for a while now and she swears by it. Although she does say that she and her family are ruined because store bought applesauce just doesn't measure up.

After trying this recipe I couldn't agree more! I kept it chunky for my husband and I and pureed it for our 5 month old. We all devoured it! The fresh apples make the applesauce bright and chunky and AMAZING! I can't wait to make an even bigger batch of this next time! The great thing about this recipe is it's SO easy and all of the ingredients are "to taste" so if you like it sweeter or with more cinnamon you can go ahead and add them with wild abandon! But just know, you were will probably never like store bought applesauce again!

Homemade Applesauce

6 apples, peeled and diced
1/2 C. water
1 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. lemon juice

Put the apples into a saucepan with the water. Cover and cook until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the apples to a bowl and
mash. Add sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Mix well and enjoy! (This is truly great both warmed and cool!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smoked Mozzarella and Chicken Frittata

I have to apologize for this recipe. You see, I have had it a long time and have been holding out on you! I saw a frittata recipe a long time ago and though "Hey, that look like quiche...I like quiche - let's do this!" But then a came across/ thought up recipes for other treats like gooey pasta bakes with Italian sausage and apple cake with homemade caramel sauce (all coming your way soon) so this one got thrown to the back burner.

But, when I made it recently, I realized the error of my ways. This recipe was really good and worthy of it's very own post. What I like here is the method...frittata are fun, easy, and always impressive (and cute!) when in mini form. I actually prefer this method in the muffin tin because they are more manageable. You don't have to worry as much about the edges being rubbery and the center still liquid. They bake nice and evenly. Plus, you can be free to add/ substitute other ingredients. I have also made Bacon-Cheddar Frittatas with this very same recipe - I just subbed out the chicken and mozzarella and added in the bacon-cheddar duo (Which, by the way, my husband loved just a bit more than the end I liked the chicken-mozzarella version best and it's my blog so here you go :) But don't worry, he wasn't too heart broken).

Mini Smoked Mozzarella and Roast Chicken Frittata

1/2 pound orzo pasta
7 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
6 ounces diced roast chicken breast
5 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, diced
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Special equipment: 1 regular-sized muffin tin for 12 muffins

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the muffin tin.
In a blender combine the eggs, milk, cream, and mascarpone cheese. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add pasta, chicken, mozzarella cheese, Asiago cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until the ingredients are combined.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, fill each of the muffin tins until both the pasta and liquid are just below the top. Bake until just firm and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes before removing from the tin. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Braided Breakfast Casserole

I have been making this breakfast casserole a long time. I love to make it when I have guests or am going to a brunch. Really, it's scrambled eggs in a fancy braided crescent roll hug. I also really like that you can put whatever you want in the eggs to make it different. For this recipe, I used asparagus, onion, red pepper, cheese, and chopped turkey bacon. Again, use whatever veggies you have on hand to make this a deliciously different breakfast!

Adding the cream cheese in with the eggs is also really great. Although not the healthiest option, they really do make creamy, delicious eggs. And a note on the crescent rolls - this recipe calls for 2 cans but I have seen tubes of sheet crescent might want to try it because it would make the braiding a lot easier!

Braided Breakfast Casserole

4 oz. (half a brick), cream cheese
1/4 C. milk
1 T. flour
8 eggs
1 tsp. dill, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 T. butter, melted
1/2 C. cheddar cheese
2 cans (8 oz.) crescent rolls
2 C. total of your favorite fillings - I used onion, asparagus, turkey bacon, red pepper and a little more cheese!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the packages of crescent rolls - do NOT separate. On a lightly greased cookie pan, arrange dough in a rectangle and press seams to help seal them. Starting on the longest side, cut dough into 8 strips, about 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and milk. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Separate 1 egg - reserve the egg white. Add the yolk and the remaining 7 eggs, dill, salt, and pepper and whisk until smooth. Add you fillings and mix well.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, 4-6 minutes, until eggs are set but still moist. Remove pan from heat. Scoop the filling evenly over the crescent rolls - sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.

Starting at one end, lift one strip of dough, twist one turn and lay across the top of the filling. Repeat, alternating sides to form a braid. Fold bottom edges of dough up at the ends of the braid.

Brush with the remaining lightly beaten egg white. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mini Chocolate Cocadas

I came across a recipe for basic Cocada that looked amazing. Cocada is a Brazillian recipe that is typically made as a custard. This is a super-simplified version that can be whipped up in no time. It’s also a great accompaniment to your next fiesta! It comes together quickly but looks impressive. Plus, these little desserts are amazingly delicious.

The sweetened, condensed milk mixes with the coconut to make a crispy, chewy treat. These are not traditionally topped with chocolate, but I think the semi-sweet chocolate makes it extra special. To me, they taste like an incredible homemade Mounds bar. Next time, I may just top with some crushed almonds to make my very own bite sized Almond Joys!

If you don't want mini cocadas, you can always skip putting them in a mini muffun tin. Just use a regular 8x8 baking dish and spread the mixture evenly and cook as you normally would. I'm sure in bar form these would be just as amazing and disappear just as fast!

Mini Chocolate Cocada

1 bag sweetened coconut, about 5 1/2 cups
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut and sweetened, condensed milk. Mix well.

Grease mini muffin tins with nonstick spray. Spoon the coconut mixture into the mini muffin tins. Bake until the cocadas are firm and lightly golden brown, about 15minutes.

Top with chocolate chips and return to the oven until the chocolate softens, about 1-2 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate evenly . Allow cocadas to cool. (I popped mine into the fridge to help the chocolate set up). Remove from the tin and serve at room temperature. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Garlic Lime Chicken Quesadillas

I was thinking about the last time I made quesadillas and how amazing they turned out! The problem is, I really try to stretch myself as a cook and don’t repeat recipes too often unless I get a craving or a special request from my husband! So, I decided to put a new twist on my quesadillas.

I came up with Garlic Lime Chicken Quesadillas because I love the combination of flavors and they were all things I had on hand tonight! I always see Garlic Lime entrees at restaurants and they are always yummy. So, I wanted to try to recreate those same flavors in a quesadilla because I think everything is better with cheese!

A lot of what I put into my quesadillas can be adjusted based on your tastes or what you happen to have in your pantry. I hope you like these quesadillas as much as we did!

Garlic Lime Chicken Quesadillas

spice mix:
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced onion
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cilantro
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, optional
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 C. lime juice
1/4 C. orange juice
3 chicken breasts, cubed
1 medium bell pepper
1/2 medium onion
1 c. corn
1 sm. can mild green chiles
1 1/2 to 2 C. Mexican blend cheese (I like my quesadillas very gooey and cheesy so I used 2 cups)
6 flour tortillas

In a small bowl, mix lime juice, orange juice, and the spice mix. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade. Place the pieces of chicken in a large Ziplock bag or shallow dish. Add the remaining marinade and turn to coat well. Allow the chicken to marinate at least 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and cook until browned and cooked all the way through, about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the onion, bell pepper, chiles, corn, and remaining marinade. Cook until the onions are tender and most of the liquid has been evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add to the chicken mixture. Add the cheese and mix well.

Using a paper towel, wipe the skillet (You will be using it to sear the outside of the quesadillas so it doesn’t have to be cleaned, just most of the moisture removed). Heat the skillet to medium-high heat.

Evenly distribute the mixture on one side of the 6 quesadillas (about 1/2 cup of filling), fold in half. Place quesadillas, one at a time, in the skillet to brown the quesadillas and melt the cheesem flipping once.

Cut each quesadilla into 3 triangles and enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Almond Cake with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

My husband and I recently invited my parents over for dinner. They do so much for us, that I wanted to make somethine special. I also tried to keep the meal healthier...until dessert, that is.

I made almond cake with fresh blueberry sauce and it was INSANE! I think we all blew our healthy eating out of the water when we kept eating this moist, almondy cake. The blueberry sauce is the star of the show here, too. You can use frozen blueberries, but I think fresh really lend the best flavor. You can also adjust the amount of sugar you use in the sauce, depending on how sweet or tart your blueberries are. I hope you fall in love with this cake as much as we did!

Almond Cake with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup milk

Fresh Blueberry Sauce:
2 Cups Fresh Blueberries
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1 T. of water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the almond extract and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with 1 cup milk, mixing just until incorporated (Batter will be slightly lumpy). Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and invert on a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

For the blueberry sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries and sugar. Add the cornstarch/ water mixture. Slowly bring to a boil, stir until thickened. Pour over slices of almond cake and ENJOY!!

*If you do not have or like blueberries (are you CRAZY?!) you can also make this glaze for the almond cake that is amazing!
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Homemade Soft Pretzels with Sweet Mustard Dipping Sauce

A few weeks ago I went to Weber Grill for a baby shower and they had the most amazing pretzel bread. My love affair with pretzel bread started a loooong time ago, but it was just recently that I have felt brave enough to try bread. You see, I have a long history of lost bread battles.

I once had a recipe for dinner rolls but they turned out more like hockey pucks. Not so yummy...For whatever reason, homemade bread has not been my friend. But, after much thought, amazing reviews online, and one too many delicious pretzel rolls, I decided to try out Alton Brown's recipe for homemade soft pretzels.

This recipe is SO worth it! Actually, it's pretty easy too. There are a few weird (to me, the novice breadmaker) steps, so I tried to photograph many of the steps to share with you. I hope they help! Like I said before, this recipe is far simpler than it seems at first and is a great way to begin making bread.

I also decided to forgo using all of the dough for traditional looking pretzels. Plus, I got bored with rolling and twisting. So, half of the dough was used to make pretzels and the other half was used to make rolls.

These are so perfect that I will definitely be making them again. Next time, though, I think that I am going to top them with cinnamon and sugar instead of the finishing salt - YUM!

Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (I just used Kosher salt from my salt grinder and it was perfect!)

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.

Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place (I used the warming drawer on my oven set on LOW) for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. *(This is where you can either make pretzel shapes or rolls...your choice!)

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for 30 seconds.

Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving

Sweet Mustard Dipping Sauce

1/2 C. Dijon Mustard
1/4 C. Maple Syrup
1 T. Brown Sugar

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Enjoy with Homemade Soft Pretzels!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blueberry Crunch Muffins

This summer, my husband and I took our 4 month old son to Michigan for a short, little weekend getaway. We had an amazing time fishing, swimming, and soaking up the sun.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was going blueberry picking. All along the winding roads of Michigan, there are blueberry farms that allow you to pick as many blueberries as you want! It's so economical too, compared to the grocery store prices! Plus, these blueberries are bursting with flavor! So, I picked blueberries until my fingers were purple and now I have a good stash in my freezer.

They are perfect to use in recipes like my Blueberry Crunch muffins. These are a surprising little muffin because they are cakey, tender, and so delicious. I really like the fruit combined with the crunchy, cinnamon-sugar topping. So whether you just want some muffins for yourself, are bringing them to a neighbor, or want to impress houseguests...give these a try!

Blueberry Crunch Muffins

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 large egg
3/4 C milk
1/3 C unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 C. fresh blueberries

For the crunch topping:
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.

Mix dry ingredients together, set aside. Beat egg and milk together in small bowl, set aside. Beat softened butter until light and fluffy. Alternate adding in egg and flour mixtures, mixing after each addition. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes, turn pan over onto a wire rack removing all muffins then turning them over with tops up. Let them cool enough so they may be handled.

For the crunch topping:
Melt the butter. Mix together sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.

Once muffins have cooled dip the tops (or all sides, if you want it extra crunchy!)in melted butter then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on wire rack to finish cooling.

May be served warm or cool. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Steaks with Sun-dried Tomato and Herb Butter

When I was in college, I studied abroad in Spain. It was life-changing, wonderful, and so freeing. I can't wait to go back and explore more of Spain because it was so magical for me. The food in Spain is insanely good too. But, one thing I did learn throughout my travels there was how much I love steak. You see, my entire trip there I spent tasting new, exotic foods and delicious seafood options. It was great! But by the end of my trip, all I wanted was STEAK! I could have eaten an entire cow by the time I came home.

So, here you will find a recipe for the meat-lover in you. A simple steak that is transformed into a rich, culinary treat by piling on a sun-dried tomato and herb butter. If you ever have the chance - go explore Spain - you will love it. And when you get home and need to satisfy your craving for beef, try this recipe'll be glad you did!

Steaks with Sun-dried Tomato and Herb Butter

4 steaks, any cut you like
2 T. steak seasoning
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 tsp. rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 T. basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped

Sprinkle steaks well with steak seasoning. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients: butter, rosemary, thyme, pepper, salt, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Mix until incorporated and refrigerate until needed.

For indoor cooking: Preheat large skillet to medium-high heat. Spray pan with non-stick spray and sear steaks 6 min. on each side or to desired doneness, turning every 2 minutes (you may need to cover pan to prevent splattering). If you desire steaks well done, after searing steaks, place steaks in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.

To grill steaks outdoors: Preheat grill to medium-high. Cook to desired degree of doneness, about 5-6 minutes per side for medium. Remove from heat and allow to sit for five minutes before serving.

Top each steak with a dollop of herb butter. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pizza Bites

This is yet another recipe from my summer party - we had quite the spread! These pizza bites are fun and super easy. They are great make-ahead snacks too. I assembled them and then put them in the freezer until I was ready to bake and serve! There aren't any real measurements in this recipe because the pizza bites are really filled with whatever you want - so go crazy!!

The pizza bites are also really kid friendly. What kid doesn't like pizza?! But, if you are looking for something a little more "adult" and elegant, play with the toppings/fillings that you put inside. The biggest hit at the party was the italian sausage and tomato - this combo is definitely a winner. But, whatever toppings you like, go for it, I promise it will be good!

Pizza Bites
1 roll refrigerated pizza dough
pizza sauce for dipping
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T olive oil
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t dried Italian seasoning
mozzerella cheese
Pizza toppings of your choice: ham and pineapple, pepperoni slices, italian sausage, tomato, etc.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll your pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat or roll the dough so it's about 12" by 8". Use a pizza cutter to divide the dough into 24 squares.

Place cheese and desired toppings on each square. (*Remember NOT to add any pizza sauce's for dipping afterward and will ooze out everywhere if you add it here! Trust me, I tried it.) You can add as much filling as your want, I added about a teaspoon each of cheese and pepperoni and then cheese, italian sausage, and tomatoes for the others.

When all of your dough squares have cheese and toppings on them, carefully lift up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings. Pinch to make sure each ball is sealed shut and then place them seam side down in a lightly sprayed pie pan. They will be tightly packed.

Brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil and then sprinkle with the garlic and Italian seasoning and top with Parmesan cheese.

*If freezing, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until needed. These are great because they can be cooked from frozen whenever you want a pizza snack!

Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top (this time will be longer if frozen). Serve warm with warmed marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

Adapted from Our Best Bites

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ham and Cheese Sliders

When figuring out recipes for our latest summer party, I wanted something that would be delicious, fun, but simple for me to throw together. I don't know about you, but I think food is so much more fun and cute when it's smaller! These Ham and Cheese Sliders were perfect because they are so easy to put together and everyone loved them. I had to hide a few in the fridge to make sure I got one at the end of the night. And on that note, these are amazing as late-night snack food!

You might not think that Ham and Cheese sandwiches are very special, but the sauce that you drizzle over these babies is amazing. It really takes this recipe from plain ham and cheese sammie to irresistible party food. Plus, the sweetness of the Hawaiian rolls cute the tang of the mustard to strike a really nice balance. If you don't have poppyseeds or don't want to spring the extra cash for them, don't worry. They are just to make the sandwiches a little more pretty and fun...besides, if you leave them off you won't have to worry about poppyseeds in your teeth!

Needless to say, everyone kept coming back for more and I hope you give these Ham and Cheese Sliders a try!

Ham and Cheese Sliders

For the sandwiches:
24 mini Hawaiian rolls
24 slices honey ham
24 small slices Swiss cheese
Miracle Whip (or mayo if you're one of THOSE people - hehe)

For the topping:
2 tbsp. yellow mustard
8 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. finely minced onion
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Split the rolls and spread both sides lightly with Miracle Whip. Fold a slice of ham to fit on each slider bun, and top with a slice of Swiss cheese. Replace the top bun to assemble the sandwiches. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet, very close together (See picture below).

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients except the poppy seeds in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Drizzle the sauce over the tops of the slider buns. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover with foil and bake 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Remove the foil and bake 2 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hawaiian Island Dip

This recipe is an old family favorite. My mom and aunt have been making it for a long time, but only recently did I decide to give it a try at my latest party. When you look at the ingredients, it seems an odd combination. Honestly, when my mom told me the ingredients, I thought she was joking...pineapple, green onion, and green pepper? Eh....I'm not sure sure...

Boy was I wrong!! This dip is as good as I remember. Sweet, slightly spicy, and completely addicting. I had to store it in the fridge so I didn't eat it all before our guests came!

Oh, and my mom swears that it's even better if you use Pepperidge Farm butterfly shaped crackers...she claims they are not only "prettier for company" but they are sturdier and hold up if you can find them (I couldn't...) then get those to go with this super easy, crazy delicious dip.

Hawaiian Island Dip

2 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large can crushed pineapple, drained very well
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until well blended. Store in the refrigerator, at least 1 hour (it's best overnight or even 1 day ahead). Serve with crackers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grilled Basil Shrimp

Another great way to fill up but not fill out during summer is to cook and enjoy shrimp. Shrimp is so versatile because it absorbs the flavors around it. This makes it perfect for a rich and delicious marinade.

This grilled basil shrimp combines the freshness of lemon and basil with the savory flavors of garlic and spicy brown mustard. These shrimp are the perfect topping for pasta or a salad or as an elegant, yet simple, appetizer for a party!

Grilled Basil Shrimp

1lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 T. spicy brown mustard
3 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 T. garlic, minced
1/3 C. fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 T. butter, melted
2 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Wooden skewers

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, melted butter, and oil. Whisk to combine well. Add the shrimp and marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread onto the wooden skewers. Discard marinade. Lightly oil grill grates and arrange skewers on grill. Grill 4-5 min., turning once, or until opaque.

*Note: Grilling really lends the best flavor. To cook indoors, saute shrimp by removing from marinade and cooking in skillet over medium-high heat for 5 mins. or until opaque, making sure to turn shrimp while cooking.

Serve with a side of linguini, over salad, or as an appetizer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lemon Herb Pork Chops

During the summer, I just can't seem to get enough lemon! There's just something about it's bright, tartness that it adds to food (especially pork) that make me think of summer grilling. This recipe is a really flavorful and light summer meal. With all of the party recipes I've had coming your way, I thought I should help you (and myself!)out and lighten things up a bit!

The pork is incredibly juicy and the lemon-herb combination makes light, yet flavor-packed meal. I served this with marinated grilled veggies and it was perfect for a hot summer night. Grilling outside helps to not heat up your house, but you could always saute the chops in a pan with a little bit of nonstick spray.

With just a few ingredients, these pork chops are also really fast for a quick weeknight meal!

Lemon Herb Pork Chops

4 pork chops
4 T. lemon juice
2 T. Canola oil (or other light oil, like vegetable oil)
1 T. garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp pepper

In a ziplock bag, combine the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper. Seal and shake to combine well. Add the pork chops and marinate at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates to prevent sticking. Grill the pork chops 5-7 minutes per side until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.