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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffle Ice Cream


Well, the month of July isn't quite over yet, so that means that National Ice Cream Month isn't over either! I think July went by way too fast. I meant to accomplish lots of things this past month, and I feel like I only accomplished about 25% of them (if that). Can I have a redo of July, please? Yesterday I got a letter in the mail about opening activities for the first week back to work in August, and the end of summer depression definitely started to set in. So, what did I do? I made some ice cream. I made some delicious and sinful ice cream and it was just what I needed. The idea came to me to make a cookie dough truffle ice cream & I am sure glad I went with it. It is so much better than store-bought cookie dough ice cream (plus some of the cookie dough is covered in dark chocolate, so that is awesome). If you like cookie dough and chocolate and vanilla ice cream, you will go crazy over this chocolate chip cookie dough truffle ice cream. There is so much yummy goodness in every single bite you take. Although I haven't accomplished all the things I wanted to do this summer, at least I have been eating some darn good ice cream! Enjoy.

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffle Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:
For the cookie dough & cookie dough truffles
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
2 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips
2 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
For the ice cream mixture
3/4 cup of whole milk, well-chilled
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and beans scraped out
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream, well-chilled

DIRECTIONS:
For the cookie dough & cookie dough truffles
Put the softened butter and brown sugar into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium low speed to mix the butter and sugar together until it is smooth, about 3 minutes. Add in the condensed milk, vanilla extract, and flour. Mix again with the hand mixer set on low for about 30 seconds or until well incorporated. Pour the chocolate chips into the mixture and use a spoon to fold in. Cover the bowl and put it into the refrigerator for about an hour. Make about 50 - 60 tiny (about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp.) cookie dough balls out of the batter and place on a foil-lined container(s). Cover the container(s) and put in the freezer for 1 - 2 hours. When you dip the cookie dough, you will only be dipping HALF of them. The ice cream has some chocolate coated cookie dough and some regular cookie dough balls.

Prepare a double boiler and set the bottom part with the water over medium to medium high heat. Then place the chopped chocolate into the top part of the boiler and fit it on top once the water begins to steam. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Turn off heat. Use a spoon to dip the cookie dough balls in the chocolate and coat (place several cookie dough balls into the chocolate at one time - I did about 5 at a time). Place the coated balls onto a foil lined dish or baking sheet and then put in the fridge to harden. Put the cookie dough balls that you did not dip back into the freezer until ready to use. You will have a ton of cookie dough batter leftover! You can make a bunch of cookie dough truffles as a gift for someone or just for yourself to indulge in.

For the ice cream mixture
Put the whole milk and sugar into a largish bowl. Mix with an electric hand mixer on low speed for 1 - 2 minutes. Place the vanilla beans into a very small bowl and pour the vanilla extract over. Mix gently with a spoon. Add it to the milk mixture and then add the salt. Stir to incorporate. Pour in the heavy whipping cream and mix with the electric hand mixer set on low speed for about 20 - 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and put it into the fridge for about 30 - 45 minutes.

For the ice cream
Pour the chilled vanilla ice cream mixture into an automatic ice cream maker. Make according to manufacturer directions. After ice cream has been mixing for half the amount of time until finished, with the ice cream maker still running, drop in the cookie dough balls and the cookie dough truffles into the ice cream maker.  Once the ice cream is finished mixing (according to the amount of time on manufacturer directions), spoon it into a container, cover, and place into the freezer. Let freeze for about 30 minutes & serve! Sprinkle some extra mini chocolate chips on top, if desired.

Recipe serves about 6 (possibly less, possibly more, depending on serving size)!

Other Ice Cream Recipes Shared this Month: Dreamy & Creamy Chocolate Ice Cream, Creme Fraiche Ice Cream with Peaches and Blueberries, Roasted Cherry and Vanilla Ice Cream Pie

Beth's Favorite Ice Cream Recipes: Chocolate Mint Ice Cream with Cacao Nibs, Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Patties (or Burgers)

I made these delicious sweet potato, black bean, corn, and quinoa patties a couple weekends ago when Greg & I invited some friends to our house for dinner. I made these veggie burgers for myself, because although I love this turkey burger, I have been trying to cut down on meat lately. So I made the turkey burgers for the men and the sweet potato, black bean, corn & quinoa ones just for me! At dinner, Greg tried one of the non-meat burgers and he really liked them - he even went back for seconds. One of our friends said he absolutely hated veggie burgers and that he has never had one he has liked. He hesitantly tried one, and he was pleasantly surprised - he said "wow, these are actually pretty good!" They are pretty darn good. Our other friend said he would definitely choose to eat them if he were craving healthy, since they are filled with super foods like sweet potato and quinoa. The patties/burgers go really well with chips and salsa. If you are not a fan of the veggie burger, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by these sweet potato, black bean, corn & quinoa burgers. And if you are a fan of the veggie burger, I know you will absolutely love them! Enjoy.

Recipe for Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Patties (or Burgers)

INGREDIENTS:
1 rather large (about 1 pound) sweet potato, cut in half and then lengthwise
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained very well
1/2 cup of fresh corn kernels (from one ear of corn)
1 Tbsp. of super salsa that has been strained of all liquid
2 1/2 tsp. of cumin powder
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. of lime zest
1/4 cup of cooked quinoa
2 Tbsp. of toasted pumpkin seeds
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper
1 cup of finely crushed salted tortilla chips
Baking spray
Freshly squeezed lime juice

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the sweet potato pieces skin side up on a baking sheet and cook for 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven, prick with a fork to make sure they have softened, then transfer to a plate to cool.

While the potato is cooling, cook the quinoa according to package directions. Then remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Once the sweet potato has cooled, peel and discard the skins of the potato and place the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add in the drained black beans, corn, salsa, cumin powder, garlic, lime zest, cooked quinoa, toasted pumpkin seeds, black pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper. Use a potato masher to mash all the ingredients together until they are well incorporated. Add in the crushed tortilla chips and use a spoon to mix. Cover the bowl and put it into the fridge for about an hour, a little more if possible.

Use your hands to form the mixture into about 10 patties. Place the patties on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Take out of the fridge and squeeze a little bit of lime juice over each one.

Heat an electric skillet to 350 - 400 degrees. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray the skillet with baking spray and also spray a couple of the patties with a little baking spray. Place the patties spray side down onto the hot skillet and cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Spray the tops of the patties that are cooking with a little baking spray, flip over, and allow to cook for another 3 - 4 minutes. Then transfer the patties to another baking pan that is lightly oiled and continue cooking the rest of the patties on the electric skillet. Once all the patties have cooked on the skillet and they are on the baking sheet, transfer to the oven to allow them to get a little more crispy. Cook 8 - 10 minutes per side, remove from oven, and serve.

Assemble burgers. Put one patty on a toasted bun, top with pepper jack cheese, avocado slices, sliced tomato, sour cream, and super salsa. Or serve without a bun and dip it in some mashed avocado, super salsa, and sour cream. Either way, make sure to serve it with some chips & salsa on the side. Yum!

Recipe Adapted from Cookie and Kate & The Fig Tree Blog

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tomato, Avocado & Fresh Mozzarella Salad with a Honey-Lime Balsamic Vinaigrette



Holy tomatoes! Our tomatoes are doing much better this season than ever, and I totally attribute it to the 6-foot fence Greg built around our garden. Sorry deer, you'll have to go elsewhere for tomatoes this summer! We picked close to 10 pounds of tomatoes just a few days ago, and I picked another 5 pounds today. Incredible!

Here are some of the fun recipes I have been making with all the tomatoes: Cherry Tomato Tart with a Basil and Garlic Crust, Quinoa, Corn & Black Bean Wraps, and Three Tomato Pie  I made some of the cherry tomato tarts with my next door neighbor the other day and that was a lot of fun. I woke to find my food processor broken the morning of our tart date, and I called her to let her know, and she said she did not own one. I had to make the dough the old-fashioned way, and much to my surprise, it worked! But I am still pretty devastated about my processor...

This tomato, avocado & mozzarella salad with honey-lime vinaigrette is another great recipe with tomatoes from our garden. I have made it a couple times this summer and it is one of our fave salads. It is so easy to make and it is super healthy. It's filling enough for a light lunch or it can be served with dinner. You'll love the way the flavors come together! Enjoy.

Recipe for Tomato, Avocado & Fresh Mozzarella Salad with a Honey-Lime Balsamic Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS:
For the honey-lime balsamic vinaigrette 
Beautiful tomatoes...

1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. of honey
2 tsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
For the tomato, avocado & fresh mozzarella salad
12 - 16 Sugary tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Hass avocado, cut into smallish cubes
1/4 cup of fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
Extra lime juice
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into a smallish bowl and mix well. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the salad ingredients.

Put the sliced tomatoes, cubed avocado pieces, and cubed mozzarella into a medium bowl. Pour the honey-lime balsamic vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently. Squeeze a little extra lime over the salad and sprinkle on a little extra coarse sea salt and black pepper. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 2 servings. 
Our deer-proof garden - designed & built by Greg!
First zinnia of the season! Zinnias make me happy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Orzo with Tomatoes and Chicken Sausages

This is hands down one of the best meals I have made this summer. It is a new favorite in our house. The first night I made it, I gave Greg a good-sized portion and figured he could take some of the leftovers in the pan for lunch the next day. Well, he liked the dinner so much that he kept going back for more until it was all gone. No leftovers, no pictures for me to take, no problem - I just made it again the following evening. I made sure to double the recipe so there would be enough, and I am sharing the double recipe on this post. This meal is so incredibly easy to make. The orzo cooks with the spices and tomatoes and it soaks up all of the flavor. So yummy! The orzo with tomatoes and chicken sausages takes less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish. I will be making it again very soon - we did pick 9 pounds of tomatoes out of our garden the other day. And I know this because Greg weighed them after picking!

Oh, and in case you are wondering, Orzo is a very small pasta that is shaped like rice. I thought it was a rice (even after eating it) until my mother proved me wrong! Anyways, this meal is savory, filling, and healthy. Leave out the sausages to make it vegetarian - it will still be very flavorful. Enjoy!

Recipe for Orzo with Tomatoes and Chicken Sausages 

INGREDIENTS:
2 mild italian chicken sausage links, sliced thin and then cut into half or quartered (I quartered them)
4 cups of water
2 cups of Orzo
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. of dried onion flakes
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
30 - 40 (about 1.5 pounds) cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes or a mixture of both, cut in half
2 1/2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 - 6 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup of grated Asiago cheese, Parmesan cheese or Romano Cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Put the cut chicken sausages in a pan and cook on the stovetop according to the package directions. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put the water and Orzo into a very large saucepan and let sit for about 5 minutes or so, while you chop the tomatoes and mince the garlic.

Add the onion flakes, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, tomatoes and 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pan with the Orzo. Set the pan over medium high heat and allow it to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer, stirring frequently, while it cooks for 15 - 17 minutes. Then add in the chicken sausages to the pan and stir. Cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and drizzle the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. of olive oil over the entire dish. Divide amongst serving dishes and top each with some torn basil leaves, grated cheese and black pepper.

***Leave the chicken sausages out to make this meal vegetarian.***

Recipe serves 6. Approximately 325 calories per serving. 

Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream with Peaches & Blueberries

What is Creme Fraiche? Creme Fraiche is a soured cream, and although that might not sound appetizing, it is some good stuff. I was introduced to creme fraiche by my mother, who actually has made homemade creme fraiche. To make 1 1/2 cups of your own, you can combine 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons of buttermilk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Then heat to warm but don't let it simmer. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid, and let it sit at room temperature until it thickens (at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours). I don't like to buy buttermilk because it always goes to waste when I just need a little bit of it, so I bought a container of creme fraiche. You can find it at grocery stores such as Wegmans and Whole Foods Market. The Vermont Creamery brand is good!

This ice cream is fantastic. It resembles the flavor of Udderly Cream ice cream sold at Maggie Moo's, which is my favorite flavor. Greg said that the ice cream tasted lighter than other ice creams that I have made, and he said it tasted perfect. I don't really know if it tastes lighter, but I am glad he likes it so much. The creme fraiche ice cream pairs really nicely with ripe sweet peaches and fresh blueberries, which are both in season right now (so they are cheaper than usual at grocery stores)!

Creme fraiche ice cream with peaches and blueberries is my second ice cream posting this July to celebrate National Ice Cream month. Will I post another one before the end of the month? I don't know, maybe! Did you buy your automatic ice cream maker yet?

Recipe for Creme Fraiche Ice Cream with Peaches and Blueberries 

INGREDIENTS:
5 ounces of whole milk
3 ounces of heavy whipping cream
8 ounces of creme fraiche (chilled)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
3/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract (I used Nielson-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract)
For topping
1 - 2 peaches, chopped small
40 - 50 fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS: 
Put the milk, heavy whipping cream, and sugar into a large bowl. Use a wire whisk to beat the ingredients together until they are well combined. Add in the creme fraiche and whisk again until it is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add in the salt and vanilla extract and stir. Cover the bowl with a lid and put it into the fridge for about an hour.

Remove from fridge. Stir the mixture if needed and then pour it into an automatic ice cream maker. Make according to ice cream maker manufacturer directions. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer for about an hour before serving. Scoop out into individual serving bowls and top each with chopped peaches and blueberries.

*I found that the creme fraiche mixture turns into ice cream faster than other mixtures. Most take 20 - 25 minutes in the ice cream maker, but this one only took about 15 minutes (at least on my ice cream maker).

Recipe serves about 6.

Homemade Creme Fraiche Recipe Source: Ice Cream, from Williams-Sonoma
Creme Fraiche Ice Cream Recipe Inspired By: Ice Cream, from Williams-Sonoma

Friday, July 19, 2013

Zucchini & Mushroom Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese & Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

I came across this recipe on Oh My Veggies the other day. I have always loved quesadillas. As a child, they were one of my favorite things to make. I'd take a tortilla, stuff it with grated cheddar cheese, fold it, and put it in the microwave until the cheese melted. Best snack ever. Over the years, my quesadillas have gotten much more grown-up and sophisticated. I never really thought that veggie quesadillas would be something to share on the blog, because I thought they were something that everyone knew how to make. Well, I've ran into several people who have never had a quesadilla. Some people said they didn't even know what one was. I guess I grew up in a house where Mexican food was a staple, so how was I supposed to know that there were so many who were deprived of yummy Mexican dishes? The recipe I found inspired me to share one of my favorite ways to make quesadillas. The cilantro pesto sounds amazing, and I definitely want to make that soon!

These quesadillas have a good kick to them and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch. If you want to, you can leave out the pumpkin seeds and add cooked and crumbled bacon to the quesadillas instead - that way you can appease the meat-lovers in your home! Enjoy.

Recipe for Zucchini & Mushroom Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese & Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. of olive oil, divided
3 Tbsp. of raw pumpkin seeds
1/8 tsp. of cumin powder
8 ounces of sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp. of minced jalapeno pepper
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced, cut into half or quartered
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 - 2 cups of grated pepper jack cheese (depends on your cheesiness preference)
6 flour tortillas (soft taco size - 8")
*If you want to add bacon, omit the pumpkin seeds and cook 4 strips of turkey bacon or regular bacon. Crumble it before putting it into the quesadillas.

DIRECTIONS: 
Toast the pumpkin seeds first. Toss the pumpkin seeds with the 1/2 tsp. of oil, cumin powder, and a little bit of salt. Place on a pan and put into oven or toaster oven set at 300 degrees for 7 - 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside to cool.

Put the other 1/2 Tbsp. of oil into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the mushrooms and saute for 4 - 5 minutes, then add in the minced jalapeno pepper and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes. Carefully transfer the mushrooms and jalapeno pepper to a plate or bowl. Return the saucepan to the stovetop and add in the sliced zucchini. Add more oil if needed. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 4 - 5 minutes. Remove from heat and then transfer zucchini to a plate or bowl.

Heat an electric skillet to 300 degrees. Place a tortilla on the warmed skillet. Top half of the tortilla shell with a little cheese, mushrooms, zucchini and pumpkin seeds (or crumbled bacon pieces). Top with a little more cheese. Carefully fold the other half of the tortilla on top of the cheese and fixings. Heat on one side for 30 seconds to a minute, then carefully flip with your hands or a spatula. Cook for a  minute or until the cheese is melted and tortilla is warmed through. Then transfer the cooked quesadilla to a plate. Continue with the other tortillas until all the cheese or fixings are gone (depending on the size of your electric skillet, you might be able to cook more than one at a time). Cut each quesadilla in half.

Serve plain or serve with sour cream, avocado, and/or super salsa. Recipe serves 4 - 6.

Recipe inspired by: Oh My Veggies

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Healthy Peach Smoothie (no dairy, no sugar)

One of my secret pleasures (or not so secret) is stopping by Robeks Juices and Smoothies in Annapolis every once in a while for a tasty smoothie or super healthy juice. The problem with doing this too often is that it can put a huge dent in my wallet. A regular sized smoothie runs around 6 - 7 dollars and the juices cost just as much. Lately, I have been going in for a "Crazy Carrot" juice, which has beets, carrots, celery, and cayenne pepper. I think you can tell why they call it crazy. On the wall at the Robeks store they have been advertising their new almond milk smoothies that are offered for "a limited time only." Instead of trying the smoothie at Robeks, I decided to make one at home. The ingredients for the peach smoothie were listed on the wall as almond milk, peaches, frozen yogurt and dates. I tried it with coconut milk (not coconut milk for cooking, coconut milk for drinking), and the smoothie is AMAZING. The dates make the drink nice and sweet so you don't need any sugar. I added yogurt the first couple times I made them but decided it didn't need it - you can add some if you want to thicken the smoothie. Greg and I have been making them about every other day and we are hooked. The best part about these smoothies is that they only cost about $1.25/smoothie to make. That sure beats paying $7! And, they are healthy. And yummy. They are being offered up at my house for an unlimited time! Enjoy.

Recipe for Healthy Peach Smoothie (no dairy, no sugar)

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 cup of coconut milk (I use the Silk original pure coconut)
2 ripe peaches (any variety), pitted and chopped
4 - 6 dates (I used Deglet Noor dates)
*Add 1/3 cup of low-fat plain yogurt if you want a thicker smoothie.*

DIRECTIONS:
Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Drink up!

Recipe serves 2. Approximately 180 calories per smoothie. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dreamy & Creamy Chocolate Ice Cream (No Eggs)

If you are not a chocolate lover, than perhaps you will not like this ice cream. But if you are a chocolate lover, you will fall in love with this ice cream. It tastes of deep chocolate and the texture is super smooth and creamy. I always prefer making ice cream recipes that do not involve any eggs, and so I searched the wonderful worldwide web and came across a chocolate ice cream recipe that sounded fantastic. It did not disappoint. I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I did not feel like making a "slurry." It is really not as exciting as it sounds - it is just a combo of milk and cornstarch!

Anyways, this chocolate ice cream is perfect. It is chocolatey, creamy, dreamy, and amazing. The batter kind of turned out like a ganache, so just make sure to stir it well before putting it into your ice cream maker. And remember my words of advice, if you do not have an automatic ice cream maker, buy one! And then make some yummy ice cream. Enjoy!


Recipe for Dreamy & Creamy Chocolate Ice Cream (no eggs)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of evaporated milk
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
2 tsp. of light corn syrup
2 1/2 Tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1.75 ounces of very finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used SCHARFFEN BERGER)
1/8 tsp. of sea salt
1/2 tsp. of chocolate extract

DIRECTIONS:
Combine the milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan set over medium high heat. Stir the mixture with a whisk almost constantly, until the mixture comes to a light boil. Then stir in the coca powder. Continue to whisk for another 4 minutes while the mixture cooks and boils. Then immediately remove from the heat and add in the bittersweet chocolate and coarse sea salt. Stir the mixture gently until it is completely smooth. Stir in the chocolate extract (or you can use vanilla extract).

Fill a quart-sized ziplock bag with cubed ice and fit it into the bottom of a large bowl. Pour the batter into a smaller bowl that will be able to sit on top of the ice in the large bowl. Cover the bowl with a lid. Set the bowl with the batter on top of the ice in the large bowl and put it into the refrigerator for about an hour. Make ice cream according to ice cream maker manufacturer's directions. If the mixture has gotten a little like a ganache, stir it well before pouring into the ice cream maker.

Serve plain or serve with some fresh whipped cream and strawberries.

*Recipe serves 4 - 6.  

Recipe Adapted from David Lebovitz, originally from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

*July is National Ice Cream Month! I'll be sharing another tasty ice cream recipe before the month is over.*

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Slightly Sweet & Totally Refreshing Lemon Cucumber Ice Cubes with Lemon Basil

Just like Greg and I have been getting a ton of zucchini from our garden, we have also been getting tons of cucumber! I have been making cucumber salads galore and even juicing cucumbers for a healthy detox drink. The other day I came across these Lemon Cucumber Spa Pops on Family Fresh Cooking. I don't have any popsicle molds (but I think I really need some), so I decided to make ice cubes instead. They are very refreshing! I just added 2 - 3 ice cubes to an eight ounce glass of water and it tasted perfect. On the Fourth of July, we took some friends out on the boat, and we took the ice cubes with us and drank refreshing beverages out on the Chesapeake Bay. I added lemon basil to the ice cubes because it is also growing in our garden, and I am not exactly sure what to do with it. If you don't have any, you can use regular basil.  Enjoy & be refreshed!

Recipe for Slightly Sweet & Totally Refreshing Lemon Cucumber Ice Cubes with Lemon Basil

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup of cold water
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 - 3 Tbsp. of pure maple syrup
1 small cucumber, peeled
6 lemon basil leaves (or regular basil leaves), torn in small pieces

DIRECTIONS:
Peel the cucumber with a vegetable peeler to get thin pieces from the harder part of the cucumber (don't use the soft and seedy part). Cut the thin pieces in half or in thirds to get small pieces to put into the cubes. Put the cold water, lemon juice, and maple syrup into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and stir well. Pour into an ice cube tray (or trays) and fill each one about halfway full. Drop the pieces of the cucumber and lemon basil into each one. Fill up with the rest of the lemon mixture. Put into the freezer for a couple hours. Drop desired amount of lemon cucumber ice cubes into a glass of water for a slightly sweet and totally refreshing beverage!

Recipe Adapted from: Family Fresh Cooking

Have you  ever used lemon basil in a main dish? What did you put it in? I am looking for ideas! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baked Zucchini Cakes (for dinner)

It isn't often that I share a recipe that I do not absolutely love on this blog. But this is the exception to the rule, because this is a recipe that Greg absolutely loved, and he said I needed to share it. So this one is for you, Greg (don't say that I never did anything for you)!

Our garden has been absolutely overflowing with zucchini. It is pretty awesome to be able to pick out 1 - 3 zucchinis a day out of the garden. But then the decision making has to happen. What the heck am I going to do with all of this zucchini? Over the past couple weeks, I have made 6 loaves of zucchini bread. I realized that I should make something a little healthier and more substantial with the zucchini, so I attempted to make zucchini cakes for dinner. My first recipe was good, but I wanted to make it better. I think I improved it between the first and second time, but I still wasn't in love with it. Greg, on the other hand, raved about the zucchini cakes. After eating them, he asked me if we could have our neighbors over for zucchini cakes. I guess Greg is such as fan of the zucchini cakes because they are filled with bread and because he was able to eat them with lots of ketchup. Greg has an obsession with ketchup.

I thought the zucchini cakes were good with melted fresh mozzarella cheese and a little Sriracha sauce for dipping. Greg recommends eating them with a gallon of ketchup.The zucchini cakes are a healthy enough meal and they are filling, and they helped to use up some zucchini. As an extra bonus, you build some serious arm muscle while grating the zucchini that is used in the cakes!  Enjoy. I'm off to make zucchini quesadillas for dinner tonight.

Recipe for Baked Zucchini Cakes

INGREDIENTS:
2 medium zucchini, grated with a box grater
1 cup of fresh bread crumbs
8 crushed saltine crackers for the mixture, plus 12- 18 more for coating the cakes
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Zucchini Cakes served with ketchup
1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
A dash or two of Sriracha sauce (careful, this stuff is HOT)
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup of all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. of baking powder

DIRECTIONS:
Put the grated zucchini in a colander and carefully set it on top of a bowl so that the zucchini can drain. Add a little bit of coarse sea salt and gently mix. Let the grated zucchini drain for about an hour, tossing occasionally. About a cup of water from the zucchini should be in the bowl. After an hour, use your hands to squeeze out any excess moisture.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a baking pan.

Put the bread crumbs, 8 crushed crackers, red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper Sriracha sauce, and beaten egg into a bowl and mix. Add in the grated zucchini and mix again. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and mix well. Use your hands to form the mixture into 6 - 8 zucchini cakes. Try to make them the same size and thickness. Put the remaining crushed crackers onto a plate. Coat each side of the zucchini cakes with the crackers. Crush more crackers if needed for coating. Place the zucchini cakes on the baking pan. Put in the oven and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, then remove from oven and carefully turn over each one (use a spatula and make sure to keep them in tact). Place back in oven and cook for another 10 - 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Serving suggestions: Serve with ketchup or another dipping sauce. Serve on a toasted and lightly buttered bun with fresh mozzarella cheese.

Other recipes that use zucchini:
Summer Pasta Dish with Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Corn & Basil
Portobello Mushroom and Veggie Sandwiches with Avocado Spread (vegan)
Creamy Vegetarian Taquitos
Coming soon: Spicy Zucchini & Mushroom Quesadillas, Zucchini Bread
Zucchini, also known as green squash. Put me in your dinner tonight!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Frozen Chocolate Treats (Healthy, Vegan & No Bake)

I discovered coconut oil recently. I saw it when I was grabbing some olive oil at the market and it was totally an impulse buy. I am sure glad I bought some, because I'm kind of in love with it. On the back on the jar, it says something like "chefs know, athletes know, and the beautiful people know that natural plant based coconut oil can be a very good thing."

And now I know too and I feel super cool that I am "in the know." Haha. I was playing around on Pinterest a few days ago and I came across a website with tons of healthy recipes that use coconut oil in them. This recipe for homemade icy square chocolates from DAMY Health stood out to me. I thought it sounded like it could be pretty darn good. So I tried it, and it is better than pretty darn good. And it is raw and vegan and healthy, so that makes me feel even better when I bite into the delicious chocolate treat. Don't get me wrong, just because something is healthy and vegan does not mean it is void of calories. Each piece has about 120 calories. But that is not so bad, and if you want a treat under 100 calories, you can make them in mini muffin tins. They are best when they are kept cold in the freezer. I brought them to a friend's house last night to serve after dinner. My friend, who has good taste in chocolate, was also blown away by how good the vegan frozen chocolate treats are. You will be to. Go ahead and make them. What are you waiting for?

Recipe for Frozen Chocolate Treats (Healthy, Vegan & No Bake)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup of coconut oil (at room temperature)
1/4 cup of raw cocoa powder (or regular cocoa powder)
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. of sweetened flaked coconut, plus more for sprinkling (leave this out if you want it to be sugar free)
2 tsp. of cacao nibs (optional)
3 Tbsp. of raw almonds

DIRECTIONS:
Put all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Run the processor for a minute or more, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth. Generously butter (okay, so if you use butter it is no longer vegan, but that's what I did since I'm not a vegan) or spray with oil (this would make it vegan) the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up a little less than a tablespoon of the mixture and let it spread over the bottom of each muffin cup. Continue adding the mixture into the rest of the muffin cups. Then sprinkle the tops with a little coconut or chopped almonds, if desired. Put the muffin tin in the freezer and freeze for a couple hours. Use a knife to gently loosen each at the sides and pop out of the cups. Place them in an airtight container and store in the freezer until ready to eat.

Use mini muffin tins if you want to make this an under 100 calorie treat!

Makes 12. Approximately 120 calories in each piece. 

ORIGINAL RECIPE FROM DAMY HEALTH 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Roasted Cherry & Vanilla Ice Cream Pie with a Chocolate Crust


Cherries are amazing this time of year! That means it is time to make lots of delicious recipes with delicious cherries. Last summer, I posted a recipe for roasted cherry brownies, and when I made those brownies, I was introduced to the fabulous flavor of roasted cherries. Roasted cherries are the best! I actually made this ice cream pie last summer but never got around to posting the recipe, so I'm posting it now. This pie starts with an incredibly yummy homemade chocolate pie crust, then it is topped with homemade vanilla ice cream and roasted cherries. It is a wonderful summer-time treat. I can't wait to make this delicious ice cream pie again! Enjoy.

Recipe for Roasted Cherry & Vanilla Ice Cream Pie with a Chocolate Crust 

INGREDIENTS:
Chocolate crust, homemade vanilla ice cream & delicious roasted cherries.
The perfect summer-time dessert! 

For the chocolate crust
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. of heavy cream
3/4 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of Dutch processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup of powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 tsp. of salt
8 Tbsp. of very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

For the ice cream filling
Basic Vanilla Ice cream (make 1 1/2 times the recipe)

For the roasted cherry topping
3 1/2 cups of fresh cherries, pits removed and cut in half
1/4 cup of granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Make the pie crust first. In a smallish bowl, mix together the yolk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Put the flour, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt into a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times to mix ingredients together. Put the cold butter pieces on top of the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter and flour mixture are combined well. Turn on the food processor, and pour the yolk mixture through the feed tube. Let machine run for about 15 seconds, or until the dough comes together. Put the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and form into a 6-inch disc. Wrap dough with the parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

While the dough is chilling, make the roasted cherries. Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the cherries and sugar on the prepared baking sheet and toss. Put the cherries in the oven and cook for 10 - 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cherries to cool. Turn off oven.

Once dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Press the dough evenly onto the bottom and on the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Put the pan in the freezer and freeze for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove pie dough from freezer and cover the edges with foil or a pie crust shield . Fill the middle with pie weights (yes, pie can have many accessories)! Put the pie pan on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 15 minutes, then rotate and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the pie crust from the oven and remove the pie weights. Put back into the oven and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and put on a wire rack so it can cool. Let it cool completely at room temperature and then put it into the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

While the pie crust is chilling in the freezer, make the ice cream. Don't forget to cool the batter in the fridge before putting it into the ice cream maker. After the ice cream is made, pour it into the cold crust and distribute evenly. Put into the freezer and let it set for at least 45 minutes before serving. Slice with a sharp knife and top each serving with the roasted cherries. Enjoy!

Chocolate crust recipe source: Annie's Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated
Roasted cherries also from Annie's Eats 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tasty Portobello Mushroom & Veggie Sandwiches with Avocado Spread (vegan)

Are you looking for a healthy meal to eat after all of that meat-eating yesterday? I hope you enjoyed your holiday. Greg and I did lunch at a friend's house, and we definitely did our share of meat eating. Hamburgers + hotdogs + pasta salad = all I want is veggies for a week! This portobello and veggie sandwich is completely vegan, and it is super flavorful. I was worried Greg wouldn't like it, because he is not a huge mushroom fan, but he ate it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a very filling and satisfying meal. For the sandwiches, I marinated and broiled the portobello mushrooms and I also roasted zucchini and yellow squash from our garden. I also added some cucumber slices (also from our garden), some jarred roasted red peppers, and an avocado spread. You can put any toppings you like on the sandwich - there are no rules here! I will have some more vegetarian-friendly recipes in the coming days (and some yummy desserts, I never get tired of dessert). Enjoy!

*Some other suggestions for topping the portobello sandwiches are romaine lettuce, baby spinach leaves, arugula, onions (raw, sauteed or caramelized), tomatoes, sprouts, and...*

Recipe for Tasty Portobello Mushroom & Veggie Sandwiches with an Avocado Spread

INGREDIENTS:
2 portobello mushroom caps, rinsed, patted dry, stemmed, gills removed
2 Tbsp. of Extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp. of red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/8 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 small zucchini squash
1 small yellow squash
1 small cucumber, sliced thin
Roasted red peppers from a jar
1 Hass avocado
1/2 - 1 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
A couple pinches of salt
Hamburger buns, lightly toasted
Use any leftover zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumber to serve with the sandwiches

DIRECTIONS:
Prepare the mushrooms. Rinse and pat dry, then carefully use a knife to remove the stem and gills. Make sure to keep the cap in tact. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, pressed garlic, black pepper, and coarse sea salt in a small bowl. Place the mushroom caps into a shallow container and pour the oil and balsamic mixture over the mushrooms. Make sure they are coated. Cover the container and put in the fridge. Allow the mushrooms to marinate for 45 minutes to 2 hours.

Drain the excess marinade from the mushrooms. Lightly salt and pepper each side.

Adjust oven so that the rack is the second highest from the top. Preheat the broiler to 475 degrees. Place the mushrooms onto a baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven and broil for 2 - 3 minutes per side. Watch the mushrooms carefully while cooking. Remove from oven and transfer to a plate to cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place the sliced squash in a single layer on the pan that the mushrooms were on and lightly salt and pepper. Cook for about  5 - 7 minutes, flip, and then cook for another 5 minutes (or until desired tenderness has been reached). Remove from oven and let cool.

Toast the buns lightly and then place on serving plates.

While the mushrooms, squash, and buns are cooling, make the avocado spread. It is best to let the veggies and buns cool before assembling so the sandwiches do not get soggy.

Mash the avocado in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and mix well.

Assemble the sandwiches. Spread the avocado mixture onto each side of the buns. Put the portobello mushroom on the bottom half of the bun. Top with 2 - 3 slices of squash, a small amount of jarred roasted red pepper, a couple cucumber slices, and the top half of the bun. Serve with the cooked squash, cucumber slices, and potato chips. Yum!

*Recipe makes 2 sandwiches. Approximately 350 calories per sandwich.*

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins with Homemade Honey Whipped Cream

It is time for me to rethink breakfast. Last weekend, Greg and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary at the Ledge House Bed and Breakfast in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Harper's Ferry is just under 2 hours from Annapolis, and once you get there, you know you have escaped the hustle and bustle of the city. We arrived at the Ledge House and we were blown away by the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Potomac River, and Shenandoah River. It was gorgeous! We met Chad, the owner of the B & B when we arrived, and we asked him when breakfast was served. He told us 9 AM, and he let us know that we would not go hungry. Boy, was he right! On Saturday morning, we woke up early and we jogged 3 miles along the canal and we also did some hiking. We got back for breakfast and we were impressed with the spread. Our breakfast plate had a slice of frittata, hash browns, fresh fruit, breakfast sausage links, and an awesome fruit popover filled with fresh cream. I told Brittany, who made the breakfast, that this was three times the breakfast that I normally eat! I thought I would be too full, but I wasn't. I felt recharged and energized and ready to face the adventures of the day. During the day, we did some more walking, biked 5 miles, and white water kayaked down the Potomac River. We weren't hungry for a meal again until we ate dinner at 7:30 PM! We had a healthy and satisfying dinner at the Canal House Cafe, and for dessert, we had strawberry shortcake. Strawberry shortcake is something my mom made when I was growing up, and I always enjoyed this lighter and refreshing treat.

So, this is why I'm rethinking breakfast. Do I really only need to eat a bowl of cereal or a couple eggs for breakfast? When I do this, I snack all day long and probably consume more calories. Now I'm thinking that perhaps a breakfast with some meat, eggs, fruit, and a yummy treat such as strawberry shortcake would help to keep me charged throughout the day so in the end, I eat less. What do you think?

I made strawberry shortcake for the first time yesterday, and guess what? It is SO easy to make. I had no idea it was so easy. I decided to make them into muffins, because that way it is smaller servings and they are easier to cut. I also made the whipped cream with honey rather than powdered sugar (confectioners sugar) since I was out. It tasted great. You can make it however you want, either way, it will be delicious! Enjoy.

*Strawberry shortcake is totally a patriotic treat for the Fourth of July!*

Recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Muffins with Homemade Honey Whipped Cream

INGREDIENTS:
For the shortcake muffins
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
3 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
For the strawberries
3 cups of thinly sliced strawberries
3 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
Beans scraped out from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (optional)
For the honey whipped cream
1 cup of heavy whipping cream, well chilled
2 Tbsp. of honey (or 2 Tbsp. of confectioners sugar)
Beans scraped out from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter each cup in a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Pour in the heavy whipped cream, add the vanilla extract, and mix together until well combined. Divide the batter into the muffin cups (you might be able to make more than 12, it is quite possible that I ate a generous amount of the dough while making). Put the muffin pan into the oven and cook for 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and put pan on a wire rack to cool.

While the shortcake muffins are baking, prepare the berries. Place the sliced berries into a medium bowl and toss with the sugar and vanilla beans. Gently stir until all the berries are coated. Let sit at room temperature until ready to use.

Make the honey whipped cream. It is best to whip the cream in a bowl that has been well-chilled. I usually put a metal bowl and beater in the freezer for about 10 minutes before I whip the cream.
Put the cream into the chilled bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium to medium high speed to whip the cream until soft peaks form (about 3 - 5 minutes). Add in the honey (or confectioners sugar) and vanilla beans. Continue to whip the cream for about another 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and put in fridge until ready to use.

Once shortcake muffins have cooled, cut each serving in half. Spoon strawberries onto the bottom half and top with whipped cream. Put the top half on and top with more whipped cream and berries. Mmmm, delicious!

Store any extra shortcake muffins in an airtight container at room temperature. The berries and cream should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and they will only keep for a couple days. But it probably shouldn't take that long for it to be gone anyways...

*Each serving of strawberry shortcake has approximately 300 calories. Recipe makes 12 servings.*

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe Adapted from the Food Network 
Blueberry Buckle would make a nice addition to breakfast!
Top with strawberries & cream and call it Red, White & Blueberry Buckle!

Rethinking Breakfast - Try these foods with breakfast!

Carrot Pancakes with Raisins
Simply Delicious Homemade Granola
Sausage, Spinach & Bell Pepper Frittata 
Peach Kuchen
Blackberry Cobbler
Blueberry Buckle 
Fresh Apricot Pie Bars
Crustless Quiche with Quinoa, Kale & Peppers
Potato Latkes (potato pancakes)
Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal with Caramelized Bananas
Carrot and Steel Cut Oat Rolls
Juice Pulp Muffins

If you live in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area and you are looking for a nice getaway, I highly recommend visiting Harper's Ferry, West Virginia for the weekend. Harper's Ferry is just 60 miles from Washington DC. Stay at the Ledge House Bed and Breakfast - it's affordable, cozy, beautiful, and centrally located. After enjoying biking, hiking, and/or kayaking, eat at the Canal House Cafe for a healthy and satisfying meal!
Harper's Ferry, West Virginia