Friday, June 28, 2013

Fresh Apricot Pie Bars

Greg and I are moving up in this world. We said goodbye to Sam's Club in mid-June, and we became members of Costco this past Tuesday evening. We went up to meet my parents at the Costco in Columbia so we could return three portable AC units that we bought 2 years ago. They really did not do a good job at cooling our house, and we didn't feel good about selling them on craigslist, especially since we didn't believe in the product. So Costco has this CRAZY return policy, where if you are not happy with an item, they will take it back and give you a full refund, even if you've had the product for several years. They have some limits on their policy, like for electronics and cell phones, but almost everything else is always returnable. So, yeah, my parents did feel bad about the fact that they were returning items that they bought for us on their membership, so we were politely encouraged by to get our own Costco membership!

Costco is a wonderful place. They have so many great things at such good prices. They even have a pretty nice produce section. On Tuesday, I walked around Costco with my mom and we saw a box of apricots in the produce section, and we decided to split the container. On Wednesday, I was home trying to work on housework and school work, and boredom set in and the urge to bake came over me. The apricots kept calling my name...they were asking me to put them into a delicious baked good treat. I was thinking about these yummy strawberry rhubarb pie bars that a coworker shared at work at the end of the school year, and I wanted to create something like that, but with the apricots. I searched the web and really could not find many pie bar recipes that uses fresh apricots, so I was a bit concerned that my concoction wouldn't turn out. But guess what? It did turn out and it turned out very well. You'll love the way the crust, apricot filling, and sweet and crumbly topping come together. I shared these fresh apricot pie bars at a party on Wednesday evening, and they definitely were a crowd-pleaser. I can't wait to make this yummy treat again. Enjoy!

Recipe for Fresh Apricot Pie Bars 

For the crust
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. of lemon zest
12 Tbsp. of very cold butter, chopped into small cubes (I put butter in freezer for about 20 minutes before using)
For the apricot filling
8 fresh apricots, pitted and chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar, divided
1/8 tsp. of fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. of cornstarch
1 Tbsp. of honey
1/4 cup of part-skim Ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
For the topping
Reserved crust mixture
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1/3 cup of raw almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 9 pan. Make the crust. Put the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blad. Pulse briefly to blend. Scatter the very cold pieces of butter over the flour mixture. Pulse until the butter is incorporated and the mixture turns to crumbs. Use your hands to gather up some of the mixture, and then put it into the prepared pan. Press down so it sticks to the bottom of the pan, and continue adding more of the mixture until there is an even layer pressed onto the bottom of the pan. You will have leftover flour mixture in the food processor, and it will be used for the topping. Leave it in the bowl of the food processor. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow it to cool.

While the crust is baking, prepare the apricots. Put the chopped apricots into a bowl and gently toss with the 2 Tbsp. of sugar and the lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes. Mix the 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Then put the apricots into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Then stir in the cornstarch and sugar and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once the apricots have cooled for several minutes, add in the honey, ricotta, and egg yolks. Mix until well incorporated.

Make the topping. Add the dark brown sugar and almonds into the bowl of the food processor with the reserved crust mixture. Pulse until incorporated and the almonds are finely chopped.

Pour the apricot filling on top of the cooled crust. Distribute the topping evenly over the apricot layer. Put pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, and rotate the pan halfway between baking. Put on a wire rack to cool before cutting and serving. Makes 16 - 20 bars. Serve fresh apricot pie bars with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Pie crust recipe adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally from Pink Parsley 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Banana Coconut Ice Cream (made with coconut milk)

You were always told to never trust a book by its cover. Well, you also shouldn't always judge a blog post by its title. Yes, this ice cream is made with coconut milk, but it is also made with cream. So, if you were looking for a non-dairy alternative, this isn't the recipe for you. BUT, if you are looking for a totally yummy ice cream recipe made with less dairy than usual, then you are at the right place. I made this ice cream the other day with coconut milk because I didn't have enough cream to make ice cream the old-fashioned way. I also didn't have any whole milk, but I did have one can of coconut milk in the cupboard. I have been seeing coconut milk ice cream recipes all over lately, so I improvised and was totally happy with the results!

The ice cream turned out amazingly delicious. It is the perfect amount of creaminess and it's a tasty tropical treat that is just perfect for hot and humid days like today. As an added bonus, it's super easy to make, as long as you have an automatic ice cream maker. And if you don't have one, you should buy one. Seriously.

Recipe for Banana Coconut Ice Cream 

1 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
5 ounces of heavy cream
5 ounces of 2% milk
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
3/4 tsp. of high quality vanilla extract
1 ripe small banana, mashed
3 Tbsp. of sweetened shredded flaked coconut

Put the coconut milk, cream, milk, and sugar into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium low speed to mix ingredients together until well incorporated. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the inside, and add the vanilla beans to the bowl. Discard of the vanilla bean. Add in the vanilla extract and mashed banana, then mix together with a whisk or with the electric hand mixer until all the banana is incorporated and the mixture is smooth.  Cover the bowl and put it into the fridge for about an hour.

Pour the batter into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker and make according to manufacturer directions. Add the shredded coconut into the ice cream maker bowl while it is running, about 5 minutes before it is finished. Put ice cream in an airtight container, put in the freezer, and eat after it has set for about 30 minutes. YUM!

Top ice cream with extra coconut and some pretty sugar sprinkles, if desired.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Grilled Romaine Salad with a Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

Recently I have been hearing about how good grilled romaine salads are from several people. My mom has talked about a restaurant in Ellicott City called Coal Fire Pizza that has an amazing grilled romaine caesar salad on the menu. She started grilling her own romaine at home, so she can eat grilled salad on a budget, and I've always wanted to try it. One of my coworkers has also talked up the grilled romaine salad, so I figured it was time for me to see what the craze is all about. On Father's Day, Greg and I went to visit my parents and I brought over the fixings for a salad and we grilled the romaine. It was a really tasty salad - and very easy to make! I made a homemade buttermilk dressing to top the salad, and it was super yummy. Next time you have tons of buttermilk after only using a small amount in a baked goods recipe, make some buttermilk dressing! And, when you are looking for a new way to eat romaine lettuce, try grilling it to make this delicious salad. Enjoy!

Recipe for Grilled Romaine Salad with a Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

2 Hearts of Romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise, ends kept in place
Extra-virgin olive oil
Grilled Romaine salad with homemade buttermilk dressing
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. of sunflower seeds
8 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 Tbsp. of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1 tsp. of lemon juice
1/4 tsp. of smoked paprika
1 tsp. of dried parsley flakes
1/8 tsp. of dried dill weed
1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. of salt

Make the dressing first. In a medium bowl, mix the buttermilk and mayonnaise together until smooth. Then add in the pressed garlic, lemon juice and spices and mix to incorporate well. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Cover the bowl and put dressing in the fridge until you are ready to use. If you don't use all the dressing, any leftovers will keep for a week in the fridge in an airtight container.

Prepare the romaine for the grill. Put a very small amount of olive oil on each side of the romaine and brush the entire side (all you need is about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. of oil per side). Sprinkle salt and pepper over each side. Put the grill on medium heat - about 400 degrees. Place the romaine right on top of the grates of the grill and cook, watching the entire time, for about 2 - 3 minutes per side (or until it turns a little brown and softens). Take off the grill and divide grilled romaine onto 4 plates. Top each with the cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, Parmesan cheese, and buttermilk dressing. Sprinkle with a little extra black pepper, if desired. Yum!

Makes 4 servings. 

*The buttermilk dressing also works well as a marinade for chicken. I marinated 1 chicken breast in about 1/3 of the dressing for 45 minutes and then Greg put it on the grill. We served it along side the grilled romaine salad, and it made a delicious dinner!

Buttermilk Dressing recipe adapted from: Simply Recipes

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spicy Brazilian Shrimp Soup

Do you think it is strange for me to post a soup recipe on the first day of summer? I have always strayed away from making or eating hot soups during the warmer months, but I thought that this recipe seemed good for summer. We have been having this beautiful weather lately and I actually ate a bowl of this soup out on my front porch yesterday afternoon. Shrimp is something that is usually enjoyed in the summer, so I that is why I thought this soup would be just fine for me to try this week. Hopefully I have convinced myself and you that eating hot soup in the summer time is totally normal.

We have a ton of cilantro growing in our garden right now. Greg kept telling me I needed to make something with parsley because there was so much of it, so I was going to add it into a buttermilk ranch dressing recipe. Greg went out to grab me the "parsley," and when he put it into my hand, I immediately knew it was not parsley! There is no mistaking the smell of cilantro (unless you are Greg). Needless to say, I didn't put the cilantro in my dressing. I was thinking about what I wanted to make with cilantro. I always make Mexican food, so I thought I'd try something different. I had seen this soup years ago on Annie's Eats and knew I wanted to eventually try it, so that is what I made. The soup is hearty and spicy and healthy. Each serving has about 300 calories, and it's very filling. You can serve it alone or with a side salad. I also made homemade croutons to add on top of the soup, and they add a nice touch, but they aren't necessary. I included a recipe link for homemade croutons in case you want to add some crunch to your bowl! Enjoy.

Recipe for Spicy Brazilian Shrimp Soup 

3 Tbsp. of Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped small
1 red bell pepper, chopped small
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (leave a few seeds for more heat or remove all)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of canned crushed tomatoes
5 cups of water
1 cup of white Basmati rice or other long-grained white rice
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 tsp. of salt
1 can of coconut milk (13.5 ounces)
1 pound of frozen large shrimp, thawed and peeled
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
Juice from 1/2 small lime
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
Sliced avocado, for garnish
Homemade Croutons (add 1 clove of pressed garlic to olive oil for garlic croutons)

Put the olive oil into a large pot and set over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add in the onion, red pepper, and jalapeno pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the crushed tomatoes, water, rice, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and then adjust the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Cook for about 10 - 12 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and bring the soup back to a simmer. Add in the shrimp and stir. Allow the shrimp to cook for about 5 minutes (the shrimp will turn pink when it is done). Stir in the lemon juice, lime juice, black pepper, and cilantro. You can serve immediately or allow the soup to sit for several minutes before serving. Divide into soup bowls and garnish with avocado slices and croutons, if desired. Store any leftover soup in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay good for a couple days.

Makes approximately 8 servings. Each serving has about 300 calories (without the avocado and croutons).

Recipe Adapted from Annie's Eats

Do you love shrimp but  not sure about eating soup in summer? Try this sweet & spicy marinated shrimp recipe!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Toasted Almond Joy Cupcakes

Mmm, who wants to eat a cupcake? I do! These cupcakes are quite spectacular! I had it in my head that I wanted to make chocolate coconut cupcakes, and I was basing it off of this coconut cupcake recipe. I checked the web for ideas, but I couldn't really find any recipes that had chocolate and coconut combined in the batter of a cupcake. So then I called my mom for ideas, and she said she didn't think it would work. But why? Chocolate is good, coconut is good, why wouldn't they be doubly as good in one cupcake? She couldn't answer my question, but she told me to trust her. I did, even though I was tempted to try it out. I held back, and instead I created these cupcakes, and they turned out better than I could have imagined. They start with a basic chocolate cupcake, then are topped with the best cream cheese frosting, and then they are sprinkled with toasted coconut and toasted almonds. And if that isn't enough to put them over the top, they are then drizzled with a dark chocolate ganache. YUM. I didn't get to eat many cupcakes because Greg hoarded them all - that's how much he liked them. We did share some cupcakes with my parents on Father's Day, and they were a huge hit with both of them. I have to  give my mom some of the credit since she convinced me not to mix the chocolate and coconut together in the batter!

I did have a hard time naming these because "Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, Toasted Coconut, Toasted Almonds, and Chocolate Ganache" was way too long of a title. So I came up with "Toasted Almond Joy Cupcakes." I think it works.

This recipe makes 18 delectable cupcakes. In case you want to make 6 cupcakes rather than the full 18, I went ahead and made it easy by putting the correct measurement for 6 cupcakes in parenthesis after each ingredient. You're welcome!

Recipe for Toasted Almond Joy Cupcakes

For the chocolate cupcakes
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. of Dutch-processed cocoa powder (3 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. of very hot water (3 Tbsp.)
2 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour (3/4 cup)
3/4 tsp. of baking powder (1/4 tsp.)
3/4 tsp. of baking soda (1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. of salt (a little over 1/8 tsp.)
2 sticks plus 1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (5 2/3 Tbsp.)
1 2/3 cup of granulated sugar (1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp.)
3 large eggs, at room temperature (1 large egg)
2 Tbsp. of heavy cream (2 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract (1 tsp.)
1 1/2 tsp. of chocolate extract - optional (1/2 tsp.)
3/4 cup of low-fat plain yogurt (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar (for brushing, to keep cupcakes moist)
1/2 cup of water (for brushing, to keep cupcakes moist)
For the cream cheese frosting 
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature (5 1/3 Tbsp)
1 1/2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened at room temperature (1/2 package)
2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted (2/3 cup)
1 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract (1/2 tsp.)
3/4 tsp. of pure almond extract (1/4 tsp.)
For the topping
1 cup of sweetened shredded flaked coconut (1/3 cup)
30 raw almonds, chopped (10)
For the chocolate ganache
4.5 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup of heavy cream
*Any extra you can store in an airtight container for later use, you will have extra if you are only making the 6 cupcakes.

First, toast the coconut and almonds for the topping. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the coconut and almonds in a single layer on a baking pan. Put in oven and cook for about 5 minutes, toss around with a spoon, then cook for another 5 - 10 minutes or until toasty-looking. Remove from oven and set aside.

Make the cupcakes.
Adjust oven temperature to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Put the cocoa powder in a smallish bowl. Add the hot water (I brought the water to just a boil and then let it cool for about a minute) to the cocoa powder and then whisk together until the mixture is smooth. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift ingredients together.

Put the softened butter and granulated sugar into a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then use an electric hand mixer set on medium speed to mix until the mixture becomes cool, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time into the mixture, and mix well on low after each addition. Add in the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and chocolate extract and blend. Add in the cocoa mixture and blend until smooth. Set the hand mixer on low speed, and then add in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Keep the mixer running, and then add in 1/2 of the yogurt, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the rest of the yogurt, and finish with the flour mixture. Blend together until just incorporated.

Divide the cupcake batter into the liners (I use a cookie dough scoop for less messes). Put the cupcakes in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Rotate pans halfway between baking. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to let them cool completely.

To help with keeping the cupcakes moist, brush each one with sugar water. Put 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir constantly until it comes to a simmer and sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Lightly poke the tops of each cupcake with a fork. Dip a brush into the sugar water and brush the tops of each cupcake with the mixture.

For the frosting
Put the softened butter and cream cheese into a large bowl. Blend together with an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed until smooth. Blend in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add in 1/2 of the powdered sugar and blend on medium speed until fully incorporated. Add in the rest of the sugar and blend again until completely smooth.

Frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting. Line cupcakes on a pan. Sprinkle each one with the toasted coconut and toasted almonds.

For the chocolate ganache
Put the finely chopped chocolate into a small bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and set over medium heat until it just comes to a boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until completely smooth. Let cool for a minute before topping cupcakes. Use a fork or spoon to drizzle chocolate ganache over the tops of each cupcake. Sprinkle on more coconut and almond mixture, if desired.

Put the cupcakes into an airtight container and store in the fridge until ganache hardens (about 20 minutes). If not serving right away, keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Cupcakes can be stored for up to a week in the fridge.

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Chocolate Ganache Recipe from: All Recipes

If you love chocolate and coconut, try the recipe for coconut truffles!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tropical Hearts of Palm Salad (Inspired by Paladar Restaurant)

As some of you may know, one of my favorite restaurants in the Annapolis-area is Paladar Restaurant. It has so many fun and exciting Latin items on the menu. Paladar shared with me their amazing sweet potato taco recipe last summer and I make them over and over again. This winter, I was inspired to make Paladar's potato, chorizo, and goat cheese tacos after seeing it on the menu, and they are incredible. I've never had a meal at Paladar that I did not absolutely love!

Yesterday I met a friend for lunch at Paladar, and I ordered the tropical hearts of palm salad and a bowl of gazpacho. I've had the hearts of palm salad many times before, and today I attempted to recreate it in my kitchen. It turned out pretty well - it's not exactly the same, but fairly close. The salad was really easy to make and it is very healthy! For those of you who don't know much about hearts of palm is,  they are a veggie that is harvested from the center of palm trees. How cool is that? I first thought that hearts of palm were the same thing as artichoke hearts, but they are completely different. Hearts of palm are grown in places such as Costa Rica and Ecuador. They are high in potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin A. This salad also has other really healthy ingredients, like avocado, mango, and black beans. It's tropical tasting, refreshing, and it's filling enough to eat for lunch or even dinner. Enjoy!

Recipe for Tropical Hearts of Palm Salad
1 can of black beans, drained
3 stalks of hearts of palm (from can or jar), sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 very ripe mango, cut into smallish cubes
1 half of a ripe (but not too ripe) banana, cut very thin and then in half
1 Hass avocado, cut into smallish cubes
5 cherry or grape tomatoes, seeds removed and cut into small pieces
Juice of one large lime
1/8 tsp. of coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
6 - 9 tortilla chips, crushed into smallish pieces

Put the beans, hearts of palm, mango, banana, avocado, and tomatoes into a medium-sized bowl. Pour the lime juice over the salad and toss well. Add in the salt and olive oil and toss again. Divide salad amongst 2 - 3 dishes and top each salad with crushed tortilla chips. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Summer Pasta Dish with Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Corn & Basil

Oh, how I love this recipe! I came across it on the Fig Tree Blog and knew I wanted to try it as soon as possible. It is delicious. The flavors come together so nicely and it is a great taste of summer. I definitely want to make it again this week. This dish is perfect for the days we're having, because it hasn't gotten too hot yet, but I'm craving foods filled with summer produce. I can't wait until our garden is full of zucchini and yellow squash! Our basil plant is already fully grown. We also planted lemon basil this year, and I can't wait to try a recipe with it!
I think you will also love this recipe. It is easy to make and it is great for leftovers. Enjoy!

Recipe for Summer Pasta Dish with Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Corn & Basil

1 Tbsp. of Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large zucchini squash, chopped small
1 large yellow squash, chopped small
3 cups of fresh corn kernels (from about 6 ears of corn), divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
3/4 cup of whole milk
3 ounces of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Zest and juice from 1/2 large lemon
1 cup of fresh basil leaves, stems removed
16 ounces of pasta, such as Farfalle (bow-tie) or Penne
2/3 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil. Add the chopped zucchini squash, yellow squash, and 1 cup of the corn to the pan and toss with 1 Tbsp. of extra-virigin olive oil and a little salt and pepper.  Put in oven and cook for about 15 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, make the sauce. First put the corn and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse for several seconds. Add in the milk, cream cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper, and basil. Blend until smooth and all ingredients are well incorporated.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente by following package directions. Drain pasta well. Mix the sauce and cooked pasta together. In a medium bowl, mix together the cooked vegetables and the ricotta cheese. Lightly oil a casserole dish. Layer half the pasta into the dish, then spread with 2/3 of the ricotta mixture. Add the rest of the pasta on top, and then spread with the remaining ricotta mixture. Top off with 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Put in the oven and cook for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Makes 6 - 8 servings. 

Recipe Adapted from: The Fig Tree 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lemon Basil Sorbet

Last week I broke out my ice cream maker, which I haven't used since last Fall. The last time I made ice cream was when I made pumpkin ice cream during the warmer days in October. I made strawberry ice cream last week, and since I made it, I've been dreaming up other fun ice cream recipes. When Greg and I went to St. Michaels this past weekend, we dined at a restaurant called 208 Talbot. The food we ate there was amazing! We must have been seated just around the same time as the tables next to us, because I practically had the dinner and dessert specials memorized. One dessert menu item was mojito sorbet, which peaked my interest. The server said it had no alcohol, it cleansed the palate, and that it was very refreshing. Although we didn't order any dessert, I couldn't stop thinking about that sorbet. I wanted to make a refreshing sorbet! Well, since I had an abundance of lemons for once and since we have basil growing in the garden, I made a lemon basil sorbet. I based the recipe on the bubbly basil lemonade that I made for the first time last summer. It was super delicious, and it was refreshing! It's tart and sweet and a little creamy and pretty incredible. I made it Wednesday afternoon and my friend, Greg, and I ate it so quickly that I had to make another batch again yesterday. I'm excited to share this recipe & I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. And I definitely will be trying to create a mojito sorbet recipe too in the coming weeks!

Recipe for Lemon Basil Sorbet

Basil Simple Syrup (recipe to follow)
10 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice (use a citrus squeezer)
1/3 cup of heavy cream

In a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice, basil simple syrup, and heavy cream. Mix well. Cover the bowl with a lid in put into the fridge for 30 - 45 minutes. 
Once mixture is cold, add it into an ice cream maker and make according to ice cream maker manufacturer directions (it should take about 20 - 25 minutes). For a softer sorbet, serve immediately. If you prefer a more frozen sorbet, put in an airtight container and store in freezer for a couple hours before serving. 

For the Basil Simple Syrup:
Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 3/4 cup of fresh basil leaves (washed and stems removed) to a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium high heat. Stir mixture almost constantly until all the sugar is dissolved and bring to a heavy simmer. Allow it to simmer for about a minute, continuing to stir. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pour over a container into a fine mesh sieve. Press down on the basil leaves to try to extract the most flavor and then discard the basil leaves. Put lid on container and store in fridge for at least an hour before you make the sorbet.

Makes 4 - 6 servings

And remember, I'm also running a GIVEAWAY to celebrate my Blogiversary. Click here for your chance to win! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It's My Blogiversary - Let's Celebrate with a Giveaway!

Adorable Tea Towels by Lynda
Today is a very special day - it's my 1 year Blogiversary! I want to celebrate with a fun giveaway, and I  hope you will join in on the fun. I'll be giving away THREE sets of tea towels by Lynda AND a choice of 1 of 4 kitchen gadgets to one lucky person. I chose four of my favorite kitchen gadgets to use in the giveaway.

I started food blogging last year for an online newspaper, and I started this food blog on Jun 5, 2012. I have learned so much about cooking since I started this blog, and I know I still have so much to learn. Thank you for your readership and support. I hope that you have enjoyed the recipes that I have shared over the past year.

The giveaway will be done through Rafflecopter. It's my first time using this cool app. Entries will start tonight at midnight and they will close on June 12th at midnight (EST). Winners will be chosen through Rafflecopter, and they will be contacted within 2 days of the close of the giveaway. Good luck!

*1 winner will receive a set of Tea Towels by Lynda & their choice of the following kitchen gadgets:

Oxo Good Grips Cookie Scoop
Microplane Classic Zester/Grater
Garlic Press 
Oxo Good Grips Citrus Squeezer

*2 winners will receive a set of Tea Towels by Lynda

(3 winners will be selected)
*Because there have been many issues with the Rafflecopter App., I took it down from the blog and I am extending the giveaway through Thursday June 13 at 8:00 PM EST. If you entered through Rafflecopter, don't worry, your entries have been recorded. If you want to enter, you can leave a comment on what kitchen gadget you would want if you win. This will be worth 5 entries. If you  like my page on Facebook or Follow me on Pinterest or Twitter, include that in the comment for another 3 points each.* GOOD LUCK!

CONGRATS TO KRISTA who won a set of tea towels & a citrus squeezer. Becky & Ashley won a set of the tea towels. Thanks to everyone who participated! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Better Than a Greek Salad

Last week I wanted to make a blueberry, cucumber, and feta salad recipe that I saw in the Wegmans catalogue. When I got to the grocery store, the blueberries looked rather pathetic, and they were selling for $4 a pint. They looked like the size of raisins, so I decided against the berries. I was pretty bummed! I bought some cherry tomatoes instead so I could make a basic Greek-like salad to serve with the salmon burgers I was making for dinner. I used cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, kalamata olives, and a homemade vinaigrette in the salad. It was the perfect addition to the meal. I think this salad would taste good for lunch in a wrap or with homemade pita chips. This salad is so easy to make & it's very refreshing. Enjoy!
*I think this salad is better than a Greek salad because it's super easy to make and because it is such a cool & refreshing salad. I hope you think it is better than a Greek salad too!*

Recipe for Better Than a Greek Salad

For the salad
1 large chilled English cucumber, peeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick, then cut in half
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
About 12 kalamata olives, cut in half
2 ounces of high quality feta cheese, cut into smallish cubes
For the dressing
2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. of white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. of white balsamic vinegar
1 ounce of finely crumbled feta cheese
1 garlic clove, pressed
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/8 tsp. of coarse sea salt
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS (Makes 2 - 3 servings)
Make the dressing. Combine all of the ingredients in a smallish bowl and mix well. Cover and put in the fridge until ready to use. In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Divide salad amongst bowls. Sprinkle each serving with a little bit of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

Serving suggestions
-Serve salad with the main course
-Put salad in a wrap for lunch
-Serve salad with homemade pita chips