Showing posts with label fruits and berries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fruits and berries. Show all posts

25 October 2015

Berry & Chocolate Nibbles

I was going to post this during Choctoberfest, but decided the nibbles were too similar to the chocolate bark recipe I shared and stuffed it back in my drafts folder at the last minute. However, now that I've eaten almost all of these little chocolate nibbles, I feel they're too good not to share ... even if they're not fancy!

Basically, instead of making a sheet of bark, I made little circular splodges of melted chocolate and decorated them with dried fruits and nuts. They taste a treat, are perfectly portioned, and (imho) present a little nicer than the bark.

Berry & Chocolate Nibbles

Yield: Depends on how much you like chocolate!


  • 4 oz good quality dark chocolate morsels
  • Dried fruit and nuts, as desired


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Use a spoon to make bite-sized chocolate circular splodges on the paper. Then scatter a few dried berries across each circle.
  3. Place in the fridge to harden, about 20 minutes.

If using freeze-dried fruit, these are best eaten within a day or two as the freeze-dried fruit will "plump up" and become less crispy. Nibbles made with "regular" dried fruit keep at least a week in the fridge.

11 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Chocolate & Berry Bark

Choctoberfest and a household divided. Shall I throw down the olive branch cocoa nibs of peace and work with more milk chocolate for my last #Choctoberfest post? The Husband prefers milk chocolate, you see, and I very much prefer dark (and the darker the better, baby). As I am the baker and cook in this house, I tend to bake with a lot of dark chocolate and then take my creations off to work with me, because I can't (shouldn't?) eat a whole pan of cookies or whatnot on my own and my coworkers are verrrry enthusiastic eaters. The Husband clearly feels left out and tends to get a bit ... complainy. If I loved him, really properly loved him, then surely I would bake chocolatey things he liked?

So I withheld snarky comments about unsophisticated palates and made this chocolate bark with The Husband's preferred flavors in mind -- milk chocolate, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, and hazelnuts. Because I love him. Or I'm trying to give him diabetes. It might amount to the same thing.


Anyway, this was my first attempt at chocolate bark and it would probably never have happened were it not for #Choctoberfest! It turns out it's dead easy to make, albeit a bit time consuming, and I really wish I'd tried it sooner. My imagination is afire with possible flavor combinations and I suspect this is something I'm going make quite often through the fall and winter. At the very least, it's a delicious way to use up those dribs and drabs of dried fruit and nuts lurking in the back of the baking cupboard!

I'd read a little bit more about chocolate -- my library has some really helpful books, including The Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook -- by the time I decided to make this bark, so I was reasonably sure decent-quality milk chocolate morsels could be used instead of the "fancy" melting chips I used when I made the chocolate dipped glacé apricots.

Chocolate & Berry Bark


  • 11.5 oz package milk chocolate baking chips [Ghiradelli]
  • ⅓ cup freeze-dried strawberry slices
  • ⅓ cup freeze-dried blackcurrants
  • ⅓ cup freeze-dried raspberries
  • ⅓ cup crushed salted roasted hazelnuts


  1. Line a 13x9" rimmed baking sheet (quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper.
  2. Place milk chocolate morsels in a large microwave-safe bowl; microwave on High 30 seconds; stir well and repeat until wafers are smooth.
  3. Pour chocolate out onto parchment paper and, using an offset spatula, spread to form a rectangle of even thickness.
  4. Artistically arrange berries and nuts across the melted chocolate.
  5. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes. Break or cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container in fridge.
This bark is best eaten within a day or two of making as the dehydrated berries will soften and become more chewy as they are exposed to the moisture from the chocolate.

Don't forget today is THE LAST DAY to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

09 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

The generous folks at Imperial Sugar sent me a case of their extra fine granulated pure cane sugar for #Choctoberfest. In case you're not impressed by that, let me point out that a case of Imperial Sugar is forty pounds of sugar. Think of all the things I can create with that amount of sugar! Think of all the cups of tea The Husband can sweeten with the bits he "borrows!" Seriously though, The Husband likes his black tea sweet and too often I have gone to bake something only to find the bottom of the sugar canister coated with the merest scraping of sugar as "someone" has drunk up the rest. That's not going to happen now. Even he can't use that much sugar in his tea!

Astounded by Imperial Sugar's generosity, I decided to bake meringue cookies with their sugar as it's such a simple recipe -- not much more than eggs and sugar -- and I thought it would give the sugar a chance to shine. Sugar doesn't just make these meringue cookies sweetly delicious, but it binds with the egg proteins, increasing their strength and elasticity, creating the fluffiest meringue. Science!

While I've made meringue with regular ol' granulated sugar, it can give the meringue a grainy texture which is not terrible in something like Eton Mess, where the meringue is smashed up and mixed with many other ingredients, but I didn't want gritty cookies. Imperial Sugar doesn't seem to make a superfine sugar, so I just whirred the Imperial Sugar granulated white around in my food processor until it resembled fine beach sand. This doesn't take long to do and allows me to feel even more smug about my kitchen skills.

These cookies are a trifle on the large size -- I like a generous cookie -- so you might want to use teaspoonfuls instead of tablespoons if you prefer a more delicate and ladylike cookie. Also, you could mix some cocoa powder in with the chips and raspberries for a more chocolaty meringue.

Also, feel free to use semisweet or bittersweet (yessss) chocolate in these cookies. The Husband does not enjoy dark chocolate and I love The Husband and want him to be happy, so I stuck with milk.

Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen cookies


  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 4 oz white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 1 oz freeze-dried raspberries
  • 5 oz milk chocolate morsels


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using your fingers, gently break the raspberries so none remain whole, being careful not to crush them into dust. Set aside.
  3. Pour white sugar into your food processor and whir around until it resembles fine beach sand. Set aside.
  4. In the scrupulously clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer, use the wire whisk attachment to whip egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla until the whites form soft peaks.
  5. Slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes very white and glossy.
  6. Gently fold in the crushed raspberries and chocolate chips, taking care not to deflate the batter.
  7. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls on to the parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 1½ hours, rotating the pans from top-to-bottom and front-to-back halfway through baking.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the meringues cool completely in oven, about 2 hours.

If the cookies stick to the paper when you try to remove them then they are not baked properly. Reheat the oven to 200°F, put the cookies back in, and then turn off oven. Leave for about 2 hours and they should be fine.

These cookies will keep well in an airtight container on your kitchen counter for several weeks ... if they last that long!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

06 October 2015

Choctoberfest: Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

My first recipe post for #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar and I'm telling you how to make blondies when you're probably all expecting some decadent ooey-gooey chocolate explosion of a brownie. Well. Here's the thing -- I prefer blondies to brownies. Yes. I know. WEIRD. But, seriously, these blondies are vastly superior to your standard brownie, don't take any more time to make, and are just so fine! They're the perfect combination of a sugar cookie and a brownie -- dense and fudgy like a brownie, but the flavor is pure sugar cookie. The addition of almonds and raspberries make them seem extra fancy -- rich and decadent -- but they really are so easy to make and go down a treat with a cold glass of milk. Or big mug of sugary tea. Or tiny glass of dessert wine ...

Baking chips. Some for the blondies, some for my belly.

While I love blondies, I don't like them too sweet so when I threw this recipe together one afternoon I opted for bittersweet chocolate morsels instead of white (which is what I usually find in blondies) to try to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar and berries. I think I was successful, but these bars are still very rich, so feel free to cut them smaller than I did!

These are most delicious served warm so the chocolate is a bit gooey.

I used King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat in this recipe, but the same amount of all-purpose would work just as well. White whole wheat adds an air of virtuousness to these blondies, legitimatizing my tendency to scarf them down like nobody's business! Also, if you want to play around with it, I'm betting blackberries and pecans would make a tasty variation.

I did not line the pan with parchment the first time & it was pretty much impossible to remove the baked bars.

Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

Yield: 16 bars (cut 4x4)


  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour]
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking spice mix [Penzeys]
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste [Nielsen-Massey]
  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate baking chips [Ghirardelli]
  • 4 oz fresh raspberries
  • ⅓ cup flaked almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease 8x8 baking dish and line with parchment paper so that there is a bit of overhang -- this will make it MUCH easier to get the baked blondies out later.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in large bowl with hand-held mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.
  4. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until blended.
  5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Scatter raspberries and almonds evenly over batter. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is set, about 35 minutes.
  7. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Remove blondies from pan, cut into 16 pieces (4 rows by 4 rows) and serve.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!

17 September 2015

Improv Challenge: Apples & Oats

For September's Improv Challenge -- apples and oats -- I decided to try my hand at cranachan. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert usually made with toasted oats, whipped cream, whiskey, honey and fresh raspberries. Obviously, mine is a bit different as I used apples, cinnamon, and apple brandy. And Greek yoghurt ...

Thinking about it, I now realize I've actually made an extra posh version of apple cinnamon Chobani Oats!

Whether it's cranachan or a Chobani-clone, it tastes pretty fine! The toasted oats and almonds give the dish a really satisfying texture, the apples are sweet-tart, and the creamy, cinnamon-y yoghurt binds it all together. Admittedly, whipped cream would definitely be more fun, but the yoghurt is a flavorful and healthful substitution. If you omit the brandy, this dish is appropriate for breakfast. If you leave the brandy in, it makes a delightful companion when marathoning The Crimson Field.

Apple Cranachan

Yield: Serves 1 generously


  • 1 oz old-fashioned oats
  • ½ oz flaked almonds
  • 5½ oz container Greek-style vanilla yoghurt [Chobani]
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 Tbsp apple brandy, divided [Josiah Bartlett]
  • ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped small


  1. Warm a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oats and cook, carefully stirring to avoid burning, until they smell nutty and are lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove oats from pan and set aside to cool.
  2. Repeat oat-toasting method with almonds, being careful to keep a close eye of them as it will take much less time to toast them. Remove nuts from pan and set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk together the vanilla yoghurt, honey, and half the cinnamon and brandy. Set aside.
  4. Heat a nonstick saucepan over high heat, add the butter, and sauté the apple for 2-3 minutes. When the apple begins to soften, add remaining tablespoon of brandy and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Combine the cooled oatmeal, nuts, and remaining half teaspoon of cinnamon.
  6. Layer the yoghurt mixture, oat mixture, and apples in a bowl and serve. (You could also skip the layering and simply mix everything together, but it may not look as nice).

11 September 2015

Berries and Cream, You Fool

I've been browsing a lot of "old-timey" British cookbooks (blame The Great British Bake-Off) and have become quite smitten with puddings (which are generally quite different from American pudding). A fool seemed a good place to start as fools are fairly straight forward since they are, in their most basic form, little more than whipped cream folded into pureed fruit. Cream. Fruit. What's not to like?

And, if you're concerned with the amount of fat in the heavy cream, do what I did -- clean out the garage, cutting up piles of cardboard and cursing at the gigantic (and extra-creepy) spiders! A few hours of that leaves me so itchy, sweaty, and dirt-encrusted that I am completely certain I deserve heavy cream.

I used my Kitchen Aid Professional to make this fool as it really speeds things along. If you don't have a stand mixer or hand mixer or stick blender, a chilled metal bowl and hand whisk will work just fine, obviously, but it will take a bit longer to whip the cream.

The amount of sugar you use in the fool is dependent on the sweetness of your berries. My blackberries were almost overripe and bursting with sweetness so I mashed them with a single teaspoon of sugar. Less ripe/tarter berries may require more sugar, depending on your taste preferences.

Obviously, any berry (or mix of berries) would work well in this recipe so get experimenting!

Summer Blackberry Fool

Yield: 2 generous servings


  • 6 oz blackberries
  • 4 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 8 oz heavy (whipping) cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste [Nielsen-Massey]


  1. Put the bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer in the freezer.
  2. Mash most of the blackberries (reserve a few for garnish) with the mint, lemon juice, and one teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for about 20 minutes so the flavors mingle and everything gets a bit juicy.
  3. Using the chilled bowl and whisk, whip the cream with the remaining sugar and vanilla crush. Gently fold the whipped cream and blackberry mix together to make a purple-colored cream.
  4. Garnish with additional mint and remaining blackberries. Nom!

20 November 2014

Improv Challenge: Apples & Cinnamon

November's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients are apples and cinnamon. While I considered pie and bundt cake and cookies, I knew my greedy little heart wanted something savory. And simple, because I'm also feeling lazy. It should be a one pot dish, preferably, with minimal washing up or ingredients to be prepped!

Well, I don't think it gets much simpler than this -- apples and sweet potatoes mashed with cinnamon and maple syrup! While the cooked apples dissolve into the mashed potato, the slightly tart Granny Smith flavor is still there balancing out the sweetness of the potato and syrup and the cinnamon makes everything sing. The butter is just gilding the lily, adding a touch of richness to a mixture that could stand just fine without it. (But I'm not going to leave it out, am I? Of course not).

This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and would be fine for vegans if you swap the butter out for something like Earth Balance.

Apple-Cinnamon Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Yield: 2-4
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 15 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 30 mins.
Total time: 45 mins.


  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Put sweet potatoes and apple in large saucepan, cover with water, and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife (about 15 minutes). Drain water.
  2. Add butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Mash until your preferred texture is reached (I like mine a little lumpy). Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Mashed Sweets & Apple

Goes really well with maple-glazed roast pork tenderloin and nutty roasted broccoli. Or, you know, it's great just by itself!

25 July 2014

Saying Thanks With Pie

My father did some work for us recently and I promised him payment in cash and pie. While he ultimately refused the cash, he was happy to receive a pie. Because this pie was meant for Dad and only Dad, I knew I wanted to make a banana cream pie as he loves bananas, but my mom is allergic and unable to bake him one. There are, frankly, too many recipes for banana cream pie loose in the world but I finally settled on Taste of Home's recipe for "Blueberry Banana Cream Pie." For me, blueberries and banana go well together as the tart brightness of the berries balances the sweet creaminess of the banana. Also, my dad loves blueberries!

The pie was quite easy to make, but I had to go and complicate it by opting to use a "real" pie crust (a Marie Callender frozen deep-dish crust) rather than the vanilla wafers called for as I thought wafers would make it too much like a deep-dish pudding and less like the pie I wanted it to be. Also, I chose to ignore the filling amounts called for in the recipe and use the amounts recommended by the commenters ... creating much more filling than would fit in my deep-dish crust!

Happily, Dad loved the pie and I will have to make it again. Next time, I will use a single 8-oz package of cream cheese instead of the 2 8-oz commenters recommended or the 2 6-oz called for in the recipe to see if that creates a slightly more stable filling (mine was mostly-firm-but-slightly-goopy) and maybe add a little lime zest. Or I might just try Taste of Home's "Creamy Banana-Berry Pie" with crushed pecans rolled into the crust!

03 January 2014

Raspberry Chocolate Bites

I made these little bites for New Year's Day as a sweet way to begin 2014. The cookie butter can be easily replaced with Nutella or any other cookie butter/chocolate nut spread you desire. Also, if you have chocolate wafer cookies on hand, you could crush a few of those and use the crumbs in place of the crushed hazel nuts.

Raspberry Bites

Do not omit the raspberries and crushed whatever garnish. Without them, they're just pretty much just chocolate pudding cups. A perfectly delicious pudding, yes, but lacking brightness and sophistication. We all want 2014 to be brighter and more sophisticated than 2013, yes?
Raspberry Chocolate Bites
Serves 2

6 mini phyllo shells, thawed according to directions
2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp Williams-Sonoma Cookies And Cream Butter (or Nutella)
Splash of milk, as needed
6 raspberries
Crushed hazelnuts, as needed

Beat mascarpone and cookie butter together with a little milk until it is fluffy and more spreadable. Divide between filo cups. Garnish with raspberries and hazelnuts.

I have shared this recipe at these delicious blog parties:
Swing by and link up your own dishes!

21 December 2013

Fantastic Raspberry Mascarpone Mousse

This mousse was meant to be August's Improv Challenge recipe, but time got away from me and I ended up skipping that month. However, since I decided to play with vanilla beans for September's Eating the Alphabet Challenge, I thought I would finally give the mousse a go. It's based on a recipe for "Vanilla Mascarpone With Chocolate, Coconut and Berries" I found on the MailOnline (clearly, not a proponent of the Oxford comma), but I fear I undid any positive nutritional value the dish may have originally had!

Vanilla Mascarpone Mousse with Chocolate & Raspberries

This is, without a doubt, the very best raspberry mousse I've ever eaten and it comes together in a blink of the eye. Especially if, like me, you are the impatient sort and thaw your raspberries in the microwave. While mousse is creamy and rich, it is also very light and bright tasting. The kind of thing I could eat a lot of, before I really started thinking about the number of calories and grams of fat that went into it.

The Husband really enjoyed it, too -- he made a little moaning sound with each spoonful and when I asked if he liked it he said "Oh, yes! I could eat a lot of this! A big bowl of it and a spoon!"

I'm thinking about serving it at Christmas. Maybe using mint chocolate and with a garnish of mint leaves and raspberries?
Vanilla Mascarpone Mousse with Chocolate & Raspberries
Serves 4

4 oz frozen raspberries, thawed and drained
½ Tbsp sugar
1 tsp raspberry extract

8 oz mascarpone cheese
½ cup sugar
¾ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
1 oz dark chocolate, grated
[Lake Champlain Chocolates 70% Madagascar Dark]

Combine the raspberries, sugar, and extract. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the mascarpone, cream, and sugar with the vanilla scrapings until smooth. Change over to the whisk attachment and whisk until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the raspberries and chocolate.

Divide the mixture between four serving bowls. Decorate with more grated chocolate, if desired.

27 August 2013

Eating the Alphabet: M is for Mango (& Mint!)

For this August's Eating the Alphabet Challenge we're selecting M, N, and/or O ingredients. I chose mango and mint (with a little bit of spring onion) and made a yummy quinoa salad appropriate for breakfast or a light lunch. It was only after I'd made and eaten the salad that I realized it might be better to save it for September's tricky "Q" and make a different mango and mint dish for August. Trouble is, it's nearly the end of the month and I haven't come up with anything I liked better!

Mango & Mint

Mango is one of my favorite flavors, but it's not a fruit I cook with much. For the Eating the Alphabet Challenge, I wanted to push the envelope a little by trying something more savory, rather than going for a sweet like mango lassi or pudding. I paired the mango with mint simply because I thought it sounded like a great idea and not because I actually knew how the two would work together. I also decided to add spring onions (scallions) to my ingredients list as I reckoned the inclusion of onion would land whatever I made squarely in the land of savory. Also, it's an "O" ingredient and I am nothing if not an overachiever.

Mango, Mint, and Quinoa Salad

I based my salad on BBC Foods' Quinoa Salad With Mint and Mango" recipe, but I changed it up a bit -- adding crushed almonds, increasing the mint, decreasing the spring onions, and cooking the quinoa in orange juice.
Mango and Mint Quinoa Salad

4 oz quinoa, well rinsed
8 oz fresh orange juice
1 mango, peeled, finely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves (omit stems to avoid soapy flavor)
2 spring onions, including the green parts, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
zest and juice of ½ a lime
4 Tbsp crushed unsalted roasted almonds

Toss mango with mint, cilantro, onions, lime juice and zest, and olive oil. Set aside and allow the flavors to marry.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa in orange juice using your favorite method. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Toss quinoa with mango mixture. Divide between two plates. Garnish with extra mango and mint and crushed almonds.
This is a fabulously refreshing summery salad well-suited to a humid August morning. The flavors are really clean and bright and the whole thing positively shouts "good health!"

That said, this salad is best eaten within a few hours of making it. You don't want to refrigerate it unless you're going to let it come back up to room temperature before consuming. Trust me, it just doesn't taste very good chilled.

If you want to add meat to this dish and serve it for lunch or supper, I would serve it over a bed of baby greens with a skewer of citrus-grilled shrimp.

14 July 2013

Spicy Slow Cooker Peach-Mango Chicken

Spicy Slow Cooker Peach-Mango Chicken

I created this dish while trying to think up ways to use peaches and herbs together in July's Improv Challenge. It's not peach season here yet, but I had canned peaches in the pantry so that's what I used. I used dried cilantro as my herb, but also added in a lot of spices for a bolder flavor.

Honestly, I'm not sure what flavor-signature I was trying for -- Moroccan? Caribbean? Weirdtasteville? -- but it works. The flavors came together quite well and the dish is all savory and sweet at the same time. (There's no way, however, The Husband would ever try the smallest forkful as he is a firm advocate of the separation of fruit and meat).
Spicy Slow Cooker Peach-Mango Chicken

1½ pounds well-trimmed boneless skinless organic chicken thighs
8 oz canned diced peaches packed in fruit juice, drained
8 oz frozen diced organic mango, partially thawed
13.4 box organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 oz red onion, finely chopped
4 oz orange marmalade
[Bonne Maman]
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha
½ tsp dried ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp dried cilantro

Arrange thighs in bottom of slow cooker insert. Add diced peaches, mango, beans, and red onion.

Stir together marmalade, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cilantro. Pour over chicken and fruit. Cook at LOW for five hours.

Spicy Slow Cooker Peach-Mango Chicken

Serve over rice with pot juices. (If you like, feel free to thicken the pot juices with a little cornstarch slurry).
I did not add any additional liquid like broth or wine to this dish as I knew the canned peaches, partially frozen mango, and chicken thighs would produce lots of liquid.

If I were to make this again, and it seems like something my taste buds would love in January, I would definitely track down some good peach or mango preserves to use instead of the marmalade. The marmalade was good, but a bit too strongly orange.

15 June 2013

Eating the Alphabet: J is for Jicama

I've known for months now that I wanted to use jicama in June's Eating the Alphabet Challenge. My local Price Chopper carries containers of jicama sticks in its prepared produce section and, every time I reach for the snap peas, I'd see them and think "Gonna make something fabulous with you soon!" But when I finally bought them (and a whole unprocessed jicama for kicks) I wondered what I would do with it. Yes, months of looking forward to eating jicama ... zero planning for actually cooking with it.

Jicama 2 Ways
Jicama two ways

So I made a fruit salad. (It's Father's Day Weekend. We're having a picnic. I planned on serving banana cream pie for dessert, but my mother is allergic to bananas. What to serve as secondary dessert? Well, I had lots of berries. And jicama. And mint. And limes ...)

Jicama-Berry Salad

Jicama Fruit Salad
Serves 6

6 oz jicama cubes (thumbnail-sized)
6 oz blackberries
6 oz raspberries
9 oz chopped strawberries
¼ oz fresh mint, sliced into thin ribbons
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Ground cinnamon, if desired
Honey or sugar, if desired.

Add all ingredients to a medium serving bowl. Stir gently to combine. (If your berries aren't very sweet, you might want to add a little honey or sugar at this point).

Let stand 15 minutes for flavors to blend or refrigerate for a few hours.

Serve dusted with cinnamon, if desired.
What does jicama taste like? A lot like nothing. It's crunchy like an under-ripe pear or water chestnut, but it really doesn't taste like anything. Works brilliantly at picking up surrounding flavors, though -- The Husband picked most of the jicama out of his serving of fruit salad as he said it had "gone all minty!"

24 March 2013

Celebrating Spring with Strawberries & Blue Cheese

It really is spring! The calendar says so and nature agrees!

First Spring Blooms 2013

First Spring Blooms 2013

Wanting to celebrate, I made a beautiful “spring” salad of baby arugula, strawberries, crumbled blue cheese, and sliced almonds dressed with white balsamic vinegar and Barlean's flax oil. I used a lovely bit of Boucher Family Farm's Madison Blue in the salad -- it's very creamy with great tang. At the moment, one of my favorite blues.

Spring Salad

While I made this salad, I founding myself singing Miriam Makeba's "Love Tastes Like Strawberries." I'd never heard of Makeba until I saw her commemorative Google doodle and now I can't get enough. Good thing my library system has a vast and varied music collection!

23 January 2013

Banana-Nutmeg Quesadillas

This recipe was my runner up for last week's Improv Challenge post. I'm pleased with how well it came out -- all crunchy, chocolaty, and banana -- and while it didn't curl my toes the way the broiled bananas did, it's well worth a post of its own.

Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas, Yum

These quesadillas were inspired by a Weight Watchers recipe for "Chocolate-Cinnamon Quesadillas." The directions are pretty much the same, but I shrank the serving size down to one and changed the ingredients a bit.
Banana-Nutmeg Quesadillas
Serves 1.

1 high fiber whole wheat tortilla [Maria & Ricardo's FiberRich Wheat Tortillas]
1 baby banana, sliced
Chocolate nut spread [Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread]

Spread chocolate over half of the tortilla. Arrange banana slices over chocolate and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Assembling Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas 3

Fold tortilla over to cover ingredients.

Spritz a skillet with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Cook quesadilla about two minutes on each side or until tortilla is speckled with brown spots and filling melts.

Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas In The Pan

Remove from pan. Cut the quesadilla in half, sprinkle with more nutmeg, and eat.
I ate this for breakfast, but it would work perfectly well as a snack or dessert. If serving for dessert, you might want to dress the cooked quesadilla up with a dusting of chocolate powder and a splodge of fresh whipped cream.

17 January 2013

Improv Challenge: Bananas & Nutmeg

January's Improv Challenge ingredients were bananas and nutmeg. I knew I wanted to do something simple and fairly straightforward -- something that would let the banana and nutmeg shine. It also needed to be reasonably healthy, because 2013 is my own personal Year for Better Health. And it needed to be quick, because I'm just getting lazier and lazier as the winter progresses.

Broiled Banana Cottage Cheese Plate
I want to eat this every morning!
Ended up making a Bananas Foster-esque broiled banana something with banana, nutmeg, maple syrup, walnuts, and cottage cheese. I used baby bananas instead of "regular" bananas, because I saw them in the shop and they were simply so unbelievably adorabs that I couldn't pass them by. Baby bananas are smaller than the common yellow Cavendish banana you find at every grocery store and actually taste a bit sweeter and more complex. Like the "regular" bananas, baby bananas can be eaten raw or cooked.

Bananas & Baby Bananas
Behold, Bananas and Mini Bananas!
Broiled Banana Cottage Cheese Plate
Serves 1.

½ tsp ground nutmeg plus more for garnish
2 tsp maple syrup (or honey!)
1 baby banana
1 serving 2% cottage cheese
1 Tbsp crushed toasted walnuts
Preheat broiler.

Slice banana in half lengthwise. Place halves, flat side up, on greased baking sheet. Brush halves with maple syrup and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Broiling Bananas

Broil bananas for 3-5 minutes or until beautifully browned. Remove from oven.

Place cottage cheese in center of a dessert plate and flank with broiled bananas. Scatter crushed walnuts over cottage cheese and bananas. Drizzle with remaining syrup and sprinkle with more nutmeg.

Broiled Banana Cottage Cheese Plate
I really liked how this recipe turned out -- so many great texture and flavor combinations. The warmth of the bananas and the cool of the cottage cheese. The sweetness of the bananas and the salty creaminess of the cottage cheese. The rich maple syrup and the sprightly nutmeg. The smoothness of the bananas and cottage cheese with the crunch of the walnuts. Yum! Look forward to making it again.

09 November 2012

Italian Homework: Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad

I was all excited to start "Lesson 9: Healthy Italian-Style Salads" in my online Italian cooking class, but then I had a little dental work done and couldn't eat cold, crunchy things for a few weeks. Sheesh. I have preposterously sensitive teeth.

But, except when the wind's blowing northeasterly, my teeth are feeling pretty fine again and so I decided to tackle my salad homework. (Cooking homework is the best homework ever -- if there had been cooking in math class, I would have been a regular teacher's pet and there is actually a lot of math in cooking, you know).

I made "Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad," because pears and gorgonzola are just meant to go together. Like peanut butter and jelly or brown sugar and bacon. And, oh my gods, I loved this salad. Loved it. Could happily eat it every day for a week. All the flavors and textures blended together so well and so cleanly that I swear to cake my tastebuds sang with happiness. Salty gorgonzola, grainy pear, crunchy walnuts ... you form a perfect triangle of deliciousness.

You must try this salad.

Making Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad
(Ingredients shown are for a single-serving salad)
Easy Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad

Salad Ingredients
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored, and chopped [red anjou pears]
½ cup chopped, shelled walnuts
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese [reduced fat]

Dressing Ingredients
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, put all ingredients into a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake well.

Making Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad

In a large bowl toss all the salad ingredients, except the cheese, together with the dressing.

Making Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad

Place the gorgonzola in a mound in the center of the salad and serve. Goes well with crusty rolls.

Serves 4
Yes, you could substitute your favorite balsamic vinaigrette for the scratch dressing, but why? It only takes a minute to throw together and tastes pretty darn good.

Making Walnut, Pear, & Gorgonzola Salad

23 September 2012

Italian Homework: Easy Appetizers

I’m taking an introductory Italian cooking class through an online learning service, Universal Class, offered by my public library. It’s all self-paced and I have six months to complete the course. So far, the lessons have all be about the factual rather than practical. I’ve learned a little bit about the different regions of Italy and their culinary specialties, the basic staples of an Italian kitchen, and whatnot. Some of it I already knew -- I was weaned on PBS cooking shows, you know -- but it was a good refresher and filled in some gaps.

Anyway, I’m on “Lesson 4: Easy Italian Appetizers” and finally got to cook! I had to make two appetizers -- one hot, one cold. Being lazy, I chose to go the simple route and make melon wedges wrapped in prosciutto for the cold appetizer:
Slice a melon in half. Remove and discard the seeds and cut the melon into eighths. Carefully cut the rinds away from each slice then wrap each melon slice with one slice of prosciutto. Plate prettily. Nom.

Proscuitto Wrapped Melon (Indiglow)

It was good, but a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper and drizzle of balsamic vinegar made it better! The combination of sweet-salt-spicy-sour was delicious and I wish I'd been eating this dish all summer.

For my hot appetizer, I went with roasted garlic on toast rounds, because it’s cheap and easy. Also, I love garlic. And bread. And garlic bread ...
Whack the top off 2 heads of garlic so the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place each head in the center of a square of tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Wrap foil loosely around heads, put on a cookie sheet, and bake at 450°F for 50 min. Drain the oil into a storage container (fab stuff for dipping bread or using in a salad dressing, by the way). Scoop the garlic cloves out of the head and spread on slices of toasted baguette. Nom!

Roasted Garlic w/ Garlic Bread

For this dish, I used a crusty carmelized-garlic loaf I picked up at Hill-Stead's Farmers Market. It was baked by Wave Hill Breads and was studded with cloves of roasted garlic. Combined with the roasted garlic heads, it was totes fab. Really. I served it with a hearty beef stew, but I would have been happy just eating it all on its own.

As I said, I have six months to finish the course, but I’m already itching to get it done -- not because I’m not enjoying it (I am so enjoying it!), but because I really want to sign up for “Spanish Cooking 101,” “Tex-Mex Cooking 101,” and “How to Bake Pies.” I want to make tortilla española and awesome chimichangas, and get over my fear of scratch-made pie crusts. While I am allowed to take five classes at a time, I’m not silly enough to believe I could cope with more than two and I’m currently also taking “Bird Watching 101.” Yes, bird watching. Because birds are also totes fab.

But so is pie!

21 June 2012

Improv Challenge: Almonds & Cherries

For June’s Improv Challenge, I decided to go simple and easy with salad. Oh, I’d had plans to bake something sweet and splendid -- cherry Bakewell tartlets or King Arthur Flours’s cherry frangipane tarts, maybe -- but when it came down to it, I found myself craving something fresh and savory. Something very much like this salad:

Cherry Almond Chicken Salad

Isn't it pretty? And delicious, too. Crunchy almonds, sweet cherries, tart blue cheese ... I could eat it all week.

There are two steps (and two meals) to making this recipe -- first, you make oven-fried chicken tenders in almond meal. Then you make this salad with the leftover chicken. Obviously, you could use any old leftover chicken, but the almond flour crusted chicken tenders give this salad a certain je ne sais quoi. Also, they are pretty yummy.
Almond Flour-Crusted Chicken Tenders


1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp Penzeys salt-free Sunny Spain seasoning blend (black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, and onion)
1 cup almond flour
1 cup panko


Whisk buttermilk and seasoning blend together. Pour over chicken strips. Toss to coat. Marinate overnight in fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking rack on a jelly roll pan and spray rack with nonstick spray.

Whisk together almond flour and panko.

Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and coat chicken, one piece at a time, in bread crumb mixture.

Place chicken pieces on prepared rack and bake 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Chicken Caesar

Serve your chicken with oven-roasted corn on the cob and potato salad. Or use it to top a caesar salad. Or what have you. Just make sure to set some aside for later ...
Cherry Almond Chicken Salad


Diced leftover chicken tenders
Chopped garden lettuce
Blue cheese crumbles
Fresh cherries, halved and pitted
Flaked almonds
Lucini Italia Cherry Balsamic & Rosemary Vinaigrette
Salt and pepper


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I know, I know. I haven't listed any amounts. How much chicken? How many cherries? As much or as little as you like, my darlings. It's salad. It's forgiving.

I dressed this salad with some of the Lucini Italia Cherry Balsamic & Rosemary Vinaigrette that I was lucky enough to find at Whole Foods. I'd actually gone to Whole Foods for a jar of sour cherry preserves to make my own vinaigrette using Panera's recipe, but this was easier. And probably just as delicious.

I am trying my hand at homemade cherry vinegar using Signature Dish's recipe for "Spicy Cherry Vinegar," because I happen to have all the ingredients on hand and making my own flavored vinegar feels just pioneer girl-ish enough to tempt me.

Spicy Cherry Vinegar

22 May 2012

Simple & Delicious Dessert

Kiwi & Strawberries

Strawberries and kiwi tossed together with a smidge of sugar (or Splenda, if that's how you roll). That's it. Delicious.