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

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, 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 flax seed 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.

17 May 2012

Improv Challenge: Strawberries & Cream

After all the grilled cheese sandwiches we ate for May's Crazy Cooking Challenge, I wanted something light for this month's Improv Challenge hosted by Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. Feeling a little guilty over my complete lack of sticktoitiveness vis-à-vis Weight Watchers, I modified their recipe for "Spring Berries with Whipped Ricotta Cream" and found it good.
Spring Berries with Whipped Ricotta Cream
Based on a Weight Watchers' recipe

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup raspberries
¼ cup Sprite Zero (or a sparkling white wine?!)
1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, rolled and sliced à la chiffonade
½ cup light ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest + more for garnish
2 Tbsp light sour cream

(The original Weight Watchers' recipe uses all fat-free dairy, but I'm not a fan and stuck with the light versions).

Toss the berries with 2 tablespoons of soda or wine and mint; set aside for 10 minutes.

Berries for Dessert

Combine ricotta, lemon zest and remaining soda or wine; whip until light and fluffy. Gently fold in sour cream. Divide berry mixture evenly between 4 small bowls and top each a dollop of cream. Garnish with mint leaves and extra zest, if desired.

Berries for Dessert
You could, of course, use any combination of berries -- a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blue berries, and red currants might be nice. Regardless, you want to use good, ripe berries as the whipped ricotta cream is creamy and lemony, but not at all sweet so the sweetness (or tartness) of the berries really shines through.

26 March 2012

Cooking The Books: The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook

I brought The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook home from the library over the weekend and I have mixed feelings about it. It's rather contrived, trying way too hard to explain how every single recipe slots into The Hunger Games universe -- the description for "Hazelle's Beaver Stew with Rosemary Potatoes" goes too far by claiming "the beaver represents hard work and family." Dude. Sometimes a beaver is just a piece of meat. And where does a good suburban cook get beaver, anyway?

(She wants to know where to get some beaver) *snickers*


Hokiness aside, I must admit I am seriously enjoying cooking from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. So far, I have made two recipes -- "Pimm's Sweet Goat Cheese Salad" and "From Casual to Formal: Fruit Nut Spread At The Capitol Banquet." To me, they are both spring dishes and would work well served at an Easter or Mother's Day brunch. They're also reasonably healthful so you can feel righteous while eating them.

"Prim's Sweet Goat Cheese Salad"

Salad Ingredients

Ingredients: romaine, blueberries, raspberries, dried cranberries, sunflower seed kernels, chopped pecans, goat cheese crumbles, white balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil.

Maple Vinaigrette

Combine white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and maple syrup.


Toss the salad ingredients together. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Say "Ohhhh, pretty!" and eat. So good!

"From Casual to Formal: Fruit Nut Spread At The Capitol Banquet"

Berry Cream Cheese Spread

Ingredients: raspberries and blueberries, almonds, cream cheese, maple-flavored yoghurt.

Berry Cream Cheese Spread

Run everything through your food processor until creamy and smooth.


Serve smeared on bagels or flat bread.

I made my spread with light cream cheese and low-fat yogurt and it's really quite good -- light, creamy, and full of berry goodness. It makes a nice change from regular cream cheese and is probably a lot healthier than the berry-flavored cream cheese spread you can buy at the market. I've been eating it for breakfast, smeared on toasted VitaBuns, with some extra berries on the side.

Will I be making more recipes from The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook? You betcha. Looking forward to "Fresh From the Careers' Package: Super Healthy Dried Fruit Quinoa Salad" and "Survival of the Fittest: Quinoa and Black Bean Salad For Bonnie and Twill" among others.

17 March 2012

An Adoration of Kumquats

sweet pulp and sour skin --
or was it sweet outside, and sour within?
For however many kumquats that I eat
I'm not sure if it's flesh or rind that's sweet,
and being a man of doubt at life's mid-way
I'd offer Keats some kumquats and I'd say:

You'll find that one part's sweet and one part's tart:
say where the sweetness or the sourness start.
            -- from "A Kumquat for John Keats" by Tony Harrison in the anthology Eat, Drink, and Be Merry:             Poems About Food and Drink (Everyman's Library, 2003)
Last week, I tried kumquats for the first time. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the idea of eating any citrus fruit in its entirety -- just pop it in my mouth and chew it up like a grape -- seemed a little weird. And, texturally, it was a little weird but the flavor was excellent. First a burst of bitter lemon, then a sharp orange burst, then a just generalized sweet-tart deliciousness that filled my mouth with the promise of summer.

Still, I did not think I would be able to eat them all whole or raw and turned to the internetz for recipes. And the internetz were very good to me, for the first recipe I found was Beyond Salmon's "Spinach with Kumquats." Excepting spinach, I had all the ingredients on hand and what's a quick trip to the grocery store when a promising new recipe is in play?

Spinach & Kumquats, Ingredients
Sliced Kumquats
Spinach & Kumquats

Oh, I am so glad I tried this recipe. Full of fresh, bright flavors, the spinach tasted fabulous. My jaded winter tongue could not get enough of the sweet-tart kumquats, zesty lemon, and sweet raisins. I served the spinach with marinated chicken breasts and Basmati rice, but I think I would have been just as happy skipping the chicken and serving a big scoop of it over rice. Yes, it was that good.

Note to self: acquire more kumquats.

11 March 2012

The Savor of Mango

February's selection from Melissa's Exotic Fruit club arrived last week and it was ... Ataulfo mangoes! Delicious Ataulfo mangoes. Exquisite Ataulfo mangoes. Addictive Ataulfo mangoes. Seriously, I love a good mango as much as the next girl, but these mangoes ... I couldn't stop eating them. Eight mangoes in four days, darlings, and when I saw a bin of them at Whole Foods (not as pretty as Melissa's, mind you) my heart leapt to know I could get more of them. Yes, my taste buds are seriously in love with these mangoes.

Champagne Mangoes

Champagne Mango

Ataulfo mangoes are also known as champagne or honey mangoes and for good reason -- these mangoes are deep gold when ripe and very sweet, with a rich almost buttery flavor that makes taste buds swoon.

What's up next for Melissas's? Sadly, not more mangoes. Instead, I get to try Cherimoyas!(?).

22 January 2012

Behold! The Adorable Baby Pineapples of Antioch!

January's selection from Melissa's Exotic Fruit club arrived last week and it was ... baby pineapples! Adorable baby pineapples. If the crowns weren't so darn prickly, I'd be tempted to cuddle the wee things. Seriously, aren't they cute? (Also, for some unfathomable reason, they make me want to quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail whenever I look at them).

Baby Pineapples

Not the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

While The Husband tried to feed me some nonsense about how they're to be eaten rind and all, he was clearly confused (he also thought they came from trees). Because the baby pineapples are so small, the cores are quite tender and can be eaten, but the crown and rind cannot. The core is firmer than the surrounding flesh and reminded me a bit of eating a crisp apple.

Baby Pineapple

These baby pineapples were delicious and we ate them up, yum! Can't wait for February's selection from Melissa's exotic fruit club -- blood oranges! (Blood oranges and satsuma mandarins are my favorite citrus fruits).

08 January 2012

First Cake of '12

Started 2012 on a sweet note with "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake" from the June 2009 Gourmet.  This is  a dynamite emergency cake for those days when you crave a fast, fruity, homemade cake. What? You never have cake emergencies? Well, we have them a lot in our house! Cake goes with everything, you see. So everything needs cake.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Ingredients

Although the recipe calls for vanilla extract, I used Cook's pure red raspberry extract for extra raspberry-ness. You could just as easily use orange or almond or what have you depending on the kind of berry you use in the cake. Yes, it's officially "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake," but there's no reason it couldn't be blackberry or cranberry, instead. The recipe is a forgiving one -- just mess about and make what you like!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Oven-ready

While still warm from the oven, we ate this cake plain and then, when properly cooled, with vanilla ice cream and more raspberries. It's good either way. A lot depends on whether you're eating it as breakfast or as dessert.