June 30, 2007

Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

In our house on your birthday you get to pick what we have for breakfast. Alexis picked pancakes and blueberries Sunday morning for hers! While she had her blueberries fresh, I decided to whip up a little blueberry sauce for mine. It was the perfect compliment!

What You'll Need For the Blueberry Sauce:
2 cups of fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons of organic cane sugar
The zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoon of water

Dump everything into a medium sized pot and cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until sauce forms. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles or chill for a great ice cream topping!

What You'll Need For the Pancakes:
What You'll Need:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 eggs
1 1/2-2 cups of buttermilk
Oil or non-stick spray

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add eggs and buttermilk and stir until incorporated. (Depending on the humidity, etc. you may need more or less buttermilk. I never make a batch with the same amount of liquid because of this. You're looking for a batter that is thin, but not overly runny. It still needs to have a bit of stick to it and not run every which way when you spoon it into your pan.) Using a ladle ladle batter into circles in the hot pan that has been brushed with oil or sprayed with non-stick spray. Cook until browned on each side.

The pancakes are also good with other types of fruit, butter and/or maple syrup!

Posted by Dianne at 7:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Fresh cucumbers are finally here! They are exceptionally delicious this year as well! This salad is something I started throwing together years ago. I needed something for a ladies lunch at church and I came up with this and a fruit salad with a key lime dressing at the same time. It's cool, creamy and delicious! It's just what you're looking for on a warm summer day!

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup of low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup of chives, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 cups of sliced cucumbers

In a small bowl mix sour cream, dill, chives, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir until incorporated. Pour mixture over sliced cucumbers and toss to coat. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Simple, easy and delicious!

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June 28, 2007

Try It You'll Like It: Dagoba Lime Chocolate Bars and Hemp, Pumpkin & Sunflower Bars

dagoba.bmp

I recently got a sampler of Dagoba organic chocolate bars and they were all delicious! If you like chocolate, you'll most definitely love Dagoba! My favorite was the Hemp, Pumpkin & Sunflower bar, closely followed by the Lime variety.

Here's the low down for the Hemp, Pumpkin & Sunflower bar:

Dark chocolate with omega-rich hemp seeds, heart healthy pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and a touch of Balinese sea salt. An energetic combination of power foods for body and mind in a base of our delicious 68% dark chocolate.

The seeds give it a bit of a crunch and the sea salt gives it just the right touch!

And more info on the Lime variety:

Our version of citrus and chocolate, with lime and macadamia nuts. Refreshing, original, and a surprising treat for the taste buds!

The lime give it a nice citrus zing, while the macadamia nuts give it a bit of a surprise. Very nice indeed!

I highly recommend these bars, or any of the Dagoba bars for that matter! They are available online through the Dagoba website or most likely at your local natural market. (I'm able to pick them up at My Organic Market here in Maryland.) Try them and see which one(s) you like!

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Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole reminds me again of childhood and this is my take on my Mom's classic. It's another one of those ultimate comfort foods! It's also very versatile. Throw in what you like, bake and about 40 minutes later you've got a hearty meal! How comforting is that?

What You'll Need For The Topping:
2 cups of cornmeal
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 - 2 cups of buttermilk (You may need more or less depending on humidity. You are looking for batter consistency.)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix all ingredients and put into a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Let cook and then break into crumbles and set aside.

Chicken Casserole

What You'll Need For the Chicken Casserole:
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 a large onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cups of crumbled corn bread (See recipe above)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 cup of chicken broth (Notes: You are using this to moisten the topping. See the notes below in the recipe itself.)
2-3 cups of cooked chicken breast, chopped (Notes: Use 2 if you use extra mushrooms, 3 if you choose not to)
2 cups of mushrooms sliced
1 can of cream of mushroom soup OR 2 cups of a creamy soup such as this one
1/2 cup of fat free half and half

Sauté celery and onion until just tender. In a large bowl mix cornbread, celery, onion, broth, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until mixture is moist. Use more or less broth depending on consistency. (Note: You are looking for the constancy of stuffing or dressing.) Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together chicken, mushrooms, cream of chicken soup, half and half, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once mixed spread mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with stuffing mixture and spread out to cover the chicken mixture entirely.

Bake for 30-45 minute, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: I sometimes add sage and/or thyme into the topping for a bit of a twist.

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June 27, 2007

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice cream and cookies...What's not to like? You could easily do this recipe with bake off cookies and store bought ice cream, but why not make it a very special treat and go all out? Any kind of cookie you like would work, as well as any kind of ice cream. It's the ultimate do it yourself dessert!

What You'll Need For The Cowboy Cookies:
1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of natural brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of rolled oats
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 package of chocolate chips
1 cup of pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Cream together sugars and butter until smooth. Add eggs and mix until incorporated. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Slowly add dry mixture to sugar/egg mixture until smooth. Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips and nuts. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a baking sheet that is lined with a silicone baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minute until slightly browned.

What You'll Need For The Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:
1/2 a quart of half and half
1 small carton of light cream
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
2 vanilla beans, cut and scraped, pods reserved
1-3 teaspoons of vanilla (More if you like it really vanilla, less if you don't)

Mix ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan, along with the actual vanilla bean pods, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Remove from heat and strain to remove pods and any large chunks that might have separated from the pod. The easiest way to do this is by straining the mixture. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Once cooled pour mixture into ice cream freezer and freeze according to your model's directions. For harder ice cream, like you will need for the ice cream sandwiches, put the softly frozen ice cream in an air tight container and store in the freezer until completely firm.

Note: This recipe is designed to fill this ice cream maker, but you could easily double or triple it to fill a larger model.

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June 26, 2007

Fresh From The Famer's Market

AVeggieVenture2007FreshfromtheFarmersMarket125.gif
* Thanks to A Veggie Venture for this great Farmer's Market icon! :o)

Alexis and I made several great finds this morning at the Farmer's Market!

Fresh From The Farmer's Market

Heirloom tomatoes:

Heirloom tomatoes

I lost a couple when I actually sat my backpack down on the bag of tomatoes. Rats! I'll most likely make a tomato, mozzarella and rosemary salad among other things.

Squash and zucchini:

Squash and Zucchini

I think I'll make some zucchini bread and some squash cakes.

And this white sage plant, also known as bee sage:

White Sage (Bee Sage)

I had never heard of it before, but I'm always up for trying new herbs!

It was a nice little journey this morning. What's better than fresh tomatoes??

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Dill Onion Spread

Dill Onion Spread

I originally got this idea from a cream cheese spread that Whole Foods mixes up with three types of onion, but I decided it needed some dill and one less onion! This spread is great on bagels and it makes a heavenly cucumber sandwich! Just spread some onto a slice of bread and top with cucumbers for a scrumptious sandwich treat!

What You'll Need:
2 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup of dill chopped
1/3 cup of chives chopped
2 scallions, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place your cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until incorporated. Store mixture in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before use so it will spread easily.

Notes: You could add a little garlic if you like, but I wouldn't add too much as the chives and green onion already give it a little kick. Some red onion might also be nice, but again just a bit, don't go overboard.

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June 25, 2007

From The Garden: Tomatoes, Peppers and Peas Oh My!

It's Harvest Time!

Harvest!

Or the beginning of it anyway! We have peas, peppers and tomatoes! The blueberries are still ripening here and there as well, but there were none to pick today.

We picked the last of the peas, most likely. It's just gotten so hot and peas most decidedly do not like hot weather! (Much like me I might add! ;o))

Peas

There weren't really enough peas to do anything with other than snack, so Alexis took care of that quite nicely. We'll plant some more peas toward the end of the summer so we'll have a fall crop as well. We'll do the same with spinach and lettuce too.

And Alexis is beside herself that the grape tomatoes are beginning to ripen!

Grape Tomatoes

She helped herself to the tomatoes too!

If it doesn't rain in the morning we're going to go over to the Farmer's Market in Annapolis and see what they have to offer. I'm hoping maybe some early cucumbers, but we'll see then what might be lurking about I suppose! ;o)

What's growing in your garden?

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Stove Top "Baked" Beans

Stove Top "Baked" Beans

Baked beans...Another one of those Southern cook out foods! Traditionally in most cases baked beans are made with canned pork and beans and baked in the oven, thus giving them their name, but given I didn't have any of those so I decided to give it a whirl with soaked pinto beans instead and since they had cooked on the stovetop, I decided to just finish them up there too instead of having to heat up the stove and thus heat up the house. They turned out perfectly!

Baked beans most definitely made me think of childhood summers at the lake, where we'd grill hamburgers and hotdogs, have potato salad and baked beans, along with hand cranked homemade ice cream. I really miss the lake.

What You'll Need:
2 1/2 cups of raw pinto beans, rinsed (Note: Rinse and soak beans over night or do the "fast" soak method by covering beans with hot water and boiling for 2 minutes. Then remove beans from heat and let sit for 1 hour before cooking.)
1/2 a Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
A pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of organic ketchup
1/4 cup of yellow mustard

Cook pinto beans according to package direction until tender. (Note: see instructions above in terms of soaking the beans.) Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook covered over low heat for at least 1 hour until mixture thickens slightly. The longer you cook them the more the flavors meld.

Pinto beans can be served warm, or cold. Both ways are delicious! I usually serve them warm the day I make them and then eat any leftovers cold right of the fridge.

Notes: If you have a sweet barbeque sauce made up you can use that in place of the ketchup, brown, sugar and honey. You can also bake them in the oven for an hour at 375 F instead of on the stove top, but on a hot summer day who wants to heat up the stove? A friend of mine adds ground beef to her baked beans and another adds bacon. I like bacon and do that from time to time, but the point is you can add what you like. :o)

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June 23, 2007

Buttermilk Waffles with Cherries and Sweetened Cream

Buttermilk Waffles with Cherries and Sweetened Cream

What better way to celebrate the weekend than with home made Buttermilk Waffles? Top them with fresh, cooked cherries and a little sweetened cream and you've got a breakfast to savor! After all isn't that what weekend are all about?

What You'll Need For The Waffles:
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of sugar
2 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs

Mix everything in a bowl and stir until your batter is smooth. Cook on a waffle maker according to the maker's directions. Top with fresh fruit, maple syrup or whatever you like on your waffles.

What You'll Need For The Cherries:
2 cups of cherries, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup of sugar

Cook cherries and sugar over medium heat and sugar until cherries break down and sauce forms (about 20-30 minutes) stirring occasionally to keep the cherries from sticking or burning. Serve warm or chill in the fridge until ready for use. This also makes a good pie filling, but you'd need to double or triple it accordingly.

What You'll Need For the Cream:
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar

Mix until blended, but not stiff. Use to top waffles and cherries.

Posted by Dianne at 7:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

Try It You'll Like It: Silicione Cupcake Liners

I've been on a quest lately to cut down on waste in all areas of my life, including my baking and cooking endeavors where so many disposable things are readily available and encouraged for use by cooks.

When Alexis' birthday rolled around and she requested cupcakes to go along with her castle cake I decided there had to be a better way to make cupcakes than with the same old throw away liners. It turns out there is an option...silicone cupcake liners! I didn't even know they made those!

The liners are oven safe to 500 F and you don't even need an muffin pan! You just fill them up and bake! Simple as can be! Then when you're done you just wash them and they're ready the next time you want to make cupcakes or muffins. And the best part is you'll never have to by liners again! How easy is that?

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Dianne's Barbeque Sauce

Dianne's Barbeque Sauce

Nothing compares to homemade barbeque sauce! A lot of the commercial brands are full of high fructose syrup and/or nasty preservatives and really who wants that? This sauce is delicious and better than anything you buy in bottle! Jamison even liked it! Try it and see.

What You'll Need:
1 - 24 ounce bottle of Heinz Organic Ketchup (Most organic ketchups use cane juice or sugar in place of high fructose corn syrup)
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt with parsley
A dash of soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least 1 hour.

Notes: The longer you cook it the more depth of flavor it will have. The flavors meld as it cooks. The sauce also thickens a bit. Use can use this sauce as you would any barbeque sauce. It's great for cooking, dipping, you name it!

Posted by Dianne at 7:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

Dianne's Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I love spinach artichoke dip so it's no surprise that I came up with my own. This dip has evolved over time and the latest rendition has goat cheese (surprise, surprise! ;o)), but every time I serve it it gets raves and I've even had people who thought they didn't like spinach try it and like it. It's one of my most requested dishes. It goes great with cut veggies, chips or other dip type scoopy foods.

What You'll Need:
1 cup of light sour cream
1/2 cup of light mayo
1 - 8 ounce package of light cream cheese
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 - 5 ounce package of goat cheese, crumbled
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon of garlic salt with parsley (If you use the garlic salt, adjust sea salt accordingly)
1 jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 boxes of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (Note: I don't remember the exact ounce of the package here, but I used Cascadian Farms boxed frozen spinach if you want to compare it to other brands.)

In a medium sized pot melt cream cheese, Parmesan and goat cheese with sour cream and mayo until smooth. Stir in seasonings, artichokes and spinach until blended and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately or let cool and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To serve from fridge remove from fridge and place in an oven preheat to 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until warmed through or place in a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.

Notes: This was the first time I had made my dip with goat cheese and it definitely was a wonderful addition. It gave the dip a hidden depth that wasn't there before. You could leave out the goat cheese if you wanted, but I will be adding it from now on.

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June 20, 2007

From The Garden

I just love this time of year! While Summer is no where near my favorite season (I actually prefer winter), I do enjoy the fresh things that start coming out of the garden! You can't get more local than you own backyard and there is nothing like the taste of freshly picked herbs, veggies and fruit!

Right now I have herbs galore:

Hanging Herb Pot

What's not to like there? I have a ton of herbs in the garden, but I like to keep a couple of pots on the deck so I can grab some easily when I'm cooking. I have a lot of dill right now, so you'll most likely see some dill recipes quite soon! I've also got a lot of parsley, oregano and thyme. I'm going to be drying some herbs next week.

Green tomatoes too:

Tomatoes

I feel some Fried Green Tomatoes coming on!

And my blueberries are beginning to ripen:

Blueberries

The blueberries ripen a few here and there, so there isn't really enough to do anything major with, but Alexis and I are enjoying eating them all the same!

What's in your garden?

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Mixed Berry "Shortcake"

Mixed Berry "Shortcake"

This is a short cut to "shortcake" that is simple and delicious. Just bake up a pie shell, crumble, throw in some berries and top with whipped cream. You'll have dessert in no time!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1/2 cup of sliced strawberries
1/2 cup of blueberries
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1 cup of pie crust, baked and crumbled
Whipped Cream

Slice strawberries and add blueberries and sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes to one hour in the fridge or until syrup forms.

Bake pie crust and crumble.

In a single serving bowl top crumbled pie crust with berry/sugar mixture and whipped cream. Repeat for each person. Serve immediately. How simple is that?

Notes: I don't care for raspberries or blackberries, (That's being somewhat mild...I actually detest them both! ;o)) but you could easily add those in with or instead of the blueberries and strawberries. Peaches would also be good. Mix it up. You can serve the pie crust warm or at room temperature. Either way is delicious.

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June 19, 2007

Spinach and Chive Quiche

Spinach and Chive Quiche

I love quiche and surprise, surprise, Jamison doesn't. So every once in a while I make one for lunch. This variation turned out especially yummy! The cheeses settled to make layers that all sort of melded together into a lovely taste sensation! If you like quiche then most definitely try this one!

What You'll Need:
1 pie shell
8-10 eggs (Depending on size. More on that in the recipe itself.)
1/3 cup of chopped chives
1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach, chopped or julienned
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of Buttermilk cheese (or Cheddar), shredded

Spinach and Chive Quiche

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Press pie crust into a pie dish and set aside. (Note: You can make your own or you can use a premade shell. It's completely up to you. I happened to have a couple of shells in the fridge from when my parents were here so I just used one of those.)

Beat together 8 eggs and stir in remaining ingredients and pour into pie shell. If this doesn't fill up the pie shell then beat a couple of more eggs and pour over the top. Bake quiche for 30-40 minutes or until done through. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Spinach and Chive Quiche

Notes: You can add other cheeses, or throw in some meat, or even use different veggies. Mushrooms are always good, as are onions and asparagus. It's another one of those recipes you can tweak endlessly and it's always good! Add a side salad and you've got a meal!

Posted by Dianne at 7:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

Banana Punch

Banana Punch

When I was growing up this was the go to punch for baby showers, bridal showers and parties. It's simple to make and it's delicious. It always gets raves! Try it at your next party and see!

What You'll Need:
5 crushed bananas
The juice of one lemon
4 cups of organic cane sugar
1 – 46 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 – 46 oz unsweetened orange juice
1 – 46 oz unsweetened apple juice
Ginger ale

Squeeze lemon juice over the crushed bananas. Mix together everything but the ginger ale in a very, very large bowl or in batches and freeze until solid. Take out of freezer about 1 hour before needed. Pour ginger ale over mixture in a large punch bowl and mix in a large punch bowl just before serving. As you use the punch you can keep adding more ginger ale and more frozen punch. Quick, easy and delicious!

Notes: If you can't get juices in the exact sizes don't sweat it, it will still taste delicious! As long as you have some amount near the above recommendations of each juice you're fine. You can't mess this one up...it's foolproof! Also don't sweat it if you can't find unsweetened juice. Just take out some or all of the sugar depnding on how sweet you like things.

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How Sleeping Beauty and Han Solo Became a Couple...Otherwise Known As Cake Plan B

The Cake

The cake turned out nothing as I had envisioned, but they rarely do. I had to scrap the fondant plan and go with regular icing (I add in a teaspoon of almond flavoring too), because even though I thought I could figure it out, when push came to shove I didn't have enough time to actually make it work.

For the creatures I decided to use gum paste instead and quickly found out that they were too heavy. The dragon ended up staying in gum paste, but as you can see his head sort of collapsed over onto the fire he was breathing:

Fire Breathing Dragon

I thought he was cute none the less, so I kept him.

The prince and the princess were just too heavy for gum paste and started toppling over. First thing Saturday morning Jamison's mom, Alexis and I set off to Target to get a prince and princess. Alexis chose Sleeping Beauty as the princess, but they don't make a prince doll, so we made due with Han Solo...(It was either him or Captain Jack Sparrow and I decided Han looked more princely! Don't tell Princess Leia though, she might not be too happy about the match up! ;o))

Sleeping Beauty

Han Solo To The Resue!

I ended up going with the old school chocolate cupcakes (Thanks again Garrett!) I mentioned the other day for the actual cupcakes and the middle layer of the cake. (Note: There were going to be two chocolate layers, but one of them committed suicide by jumping into a sink full of dirty dishes/water. What can you do?) The top and bottom layer of the cake are yellow cake.

Up Close

Cupcakes

All in all we had a lovely party. Alexis loved her cake and that's all that mattered in the end and she ended up with a princess and "handsome prince" to play with afterwards. There was food, balloons, bling and Alexis and her friends had fun making merry. What more can you ask for?

Disasembled

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June 14, 2007

Ready For A Princess Party...Almost

Ready For A Princess Party...Almost

It's beginning to look like a princess party around here! Things are coming together quite nicely. The flowers are arranged (I decided to do them a few days early so we could enjoy them and they usually last a week or so anyway...Alexis even made her own little arrangement, which I'll post a picture of later), most everything for the party is purchased except for things we'll have to buy on Saturday (ice, etc.), the banana punch is made and in the freezer and I begin the cake adventure this evening!

I've got a few recipes in the back log that will come up sometime after the big day. Most likely I'll start posting them on Sunday and then post one a day until I get through them so stay tuned! For now I'm off to make gum paste cake creatures! ;o)

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June 11, 2007

Birthday Time!

It's hard to believe, but my little girl is turning four on the 24th of this month. Time just goes by so quickly! Most days anyway! ;o)

This weekend we are celebrating by throwing her her annual birthday bash! We normally do her party the week before her birthday so this weekend is the big day!

For Alexis' first birthday I simply ordered a cake. I was in my last semester of undergrad and had a project due that week so I didn't have time. I was true to form, very disappointed with the cake. The theme for her first birthday was a faerie theme and I ordered a cake with perhaps the most famous faerie of all in the form of Tinkerbelle. The cake itself was ok and the decoration was ok too, but it felt somewhat unbirthday like to me because I bought it and it wasn't stellar. To me birthday's should be stellar and homemade doesn't hurt either!

By the time her second birthday rolled around I was done with undergrad and I had a lot more time on my hands. The theme for her second birthday was ladybugs, so there was no question that she would get a ladybug cake!

Alexis Birthday #2 Lady Bug Cake

A bit dorky looking, but cute none the less. I made the small ladybug for her using an oven safe Pyrex bowl and we served cupcakes for the rest of the crowd.

Last year the theme was a tea party theme and I made her her own little teapot!

Alexis Birthday #3 Tea Pot Cake

I was much happier with how it turned out. I again used oven proof Pyrex bowls, but in this case I used two and put them together to make the round teapot shape. There were also cupcakes for the crowd.

This year the theme as chosen by Alexis is a princess theme. The cake this year will be a castle. I emailed Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic to ask if he had a chocolate cupcake recipe he could recommend since he is after all the cupcake expert and he graciously suggested this recipe. I baked up a test round as a sheet cake and it turned out fabulously! Alexis loved it and so did Jamison and I.

To make the castle I'm going to use layers of the chocolate cake linked above and the angel food recipe that I used last year. The cake will be covered with this marshmallow fondant recipe that I found, which I might add is to die for! The cake will have turrets, a princess, a prince, a moat, a dragon and such and who knows what else I'll dream up or Alexis will ask for between now and then! I'm also going to make a batch of cupcakes.

Needless to say this week is going to be sort of busy. If you don't see me around the blog you'll know why! ;o)

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June 8, 2007

Hummus

Hummus

Hummus is one of those multi-purpose dishes that can be used in many ways! It can be used as a dip, as an accompaniment to salad or even as a sandwich spread. It's hearty, healthy and good in so many ways. It's easy to make and nutritious. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon of cumin (optional)
2 tablespoons of tahini (optional...I actually don't like tahini so I don't usually add it unless I'm making it for someone else)

Hummus

Dump ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth. Serve immediately with cut veggies, chips or even as a sandwich spread. The hummus can be chilled before serving (which I actually prefer). You can also store hummus in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

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June 7, 2007

Strawberry Granita

Strawberry Granita

Sometimes it's nice to have a cool treat that is light and fruity, without the dairy and big calorie content. Coming in at about 65 calories a servings, Granita is just the thing! It's a basic, easy, relatively healthy little dessert. I made up a strawberry batch since we've got tons of them right now in the garden. It's cold, fruity and delicious!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
3 cups of strawberries

In a medium sized pot cook water and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove simple syrup from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Place strawberries in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add simple syrup and process or blend until mixed.

Pour mixture into an 8 X 8 glass dish and place in the freezer. Check every 20-30 minutes and scrape with a fork. The sides tend to freeze first so scrape them toward the center. Repeat this step until completely frozen (1-4 hours depending on your freezer).

This can be made several days in advance of when you want to use it or the same day. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 8 servings.

Notes: You could use pretty much any fruit you like. Orange juice would work, so would pineapple, or blueberry, or well you get the point. This mixture would also make excellent popsicles. Just pour the liquid into the popsicle mold and freeze. For an adult treat stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of light or coconut rum.

Posted by Dianne at 8:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 6, 2007

What's For Dinner?

Tonight I'm having a grilled turkey burger topped with vidalia onion and oven baked sweet potato "fries".

What are you having?

Update: 9:01 PM: Alexis and I ended up enjoying the beautiful outside weather this afternoon. Seriously, it was a gorgeous day! We went out and about, had a walk and had some fun and in the process lost track of time. Jamison ended up working late so Alexis and I grabbed a bite to eat while we were out. We'll do turkey burgers another night.

Posted by Dianne at 1:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spinach and Fruit Salad

Spinach and Fruit Salad

This is an oldie, but a goodie. With all the strawberries coming in in the garden it gives me the chance to make a lot of old strawberry favorites! My sister actually gave me a recipe similar to this when I was pregnant with Alexis and I craved it! Not surprisingly you're looking at 4 of Alexis' favorite foods now right there in the bowl (spinach, strawberries, blueberries and almonds...throw in some chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella here and there and the kid is in heaven! In fact in her mind she could survive on those alone, but that's neither here nor there.)

The original recipe called for champagne vinegar (which I couldn't find/wasn't sure about using when I was pregnant anyway) and just strawberries paired with the spinach and almonds, but over the years I've tweaked it. Sometimes I use sugar in the vinaigrette, which the recipe called for and sometimes (and most of the time in fact) I use honey instead. I've tossed in cashews instead of almonds or used both of them at once. I've even used walnuts and paired it with apples and blue cheese. Feta works as well and any kind of fruit that strikes your fancy would be good, though I usually stick to just strawberries and/or blueberries and/or oranges.

Regardless of how you toss it (yeah I just went there! ;o)) this salad is the perfect meal for a summer time dinner or even lunch! It's also another one of those that is easy and fun to play around with, making numerous yummy variations as you go!

What You'll Need Per Person:
2 cups of baby spinach, washed and drained (Note: Even if the bag says it's triple washed or whatever WASH it! You don't know who has touched it or what conditions it has gone through despite of their claims. Unless you saw it washed with your own eyes don't take the chance!)
1 cup of strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup of blueberries
1/3 cup of almonds (whole, slivers, slices, whatever you like)
1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon of vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar, but you can use whatever vinegar you like)
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar or honey

Toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries and almonds until incorporated. Mix olive oil, vinegar and sugar or honey to make a dressing. Drizzle over salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Notes: Due to the vinegar in the vinaigrette this salad wilts if stored so don't make it too far in advance and realize that leftovers won't store well and will end up a big wilted mess. I usually make it no more than 30 minutes in advance. Also I prefer more vinegar to oil, but if you prefer more oil equal the ratios or switch them around. It's all according to personal taste.

Posted by Dianne at 8:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 5, 2007

Sushi Salad Dianne Style

Sushi Salad

I love this time of year! This is the time of year that things start coming in in the garden! Not only do we have strawberries galore, we've got carrots that were over looked last year during harvest that are ready to go and we've got snow peas that are starting to pop up! When these early harvest things start coming about it's fun to start making things using those ingredients! You can't get more local than your own back yard!

This dish is a variation of the one I found at Fat Free Vegan last fall. This is my twist on her original idea. Sometimes I use sushi rice and sometimes I use short grain brown rice as I did last night (which for all practical purposes is sushi rice that hasn't been processed). In fact any sort of rice you prefer would work fine. I bet orzo might even pass in a pinch and it's pasta, not rice, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, Sushi Salad Dianne Style is cool, delicious and gives you that sushi kick if you like that sort of thing (which I do) without the roll. Even if you don't really care for sushi (or think you don't) try the salad...It's a dish in and of itself and if you like fresh, you'll love this!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of uncooked short grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions
3 tablespoons of sushi vinegar
1 - 10 ounce package of frozen edamame
1 carrot, cut into rounds
1/2 a large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 - 6 ounce jar of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 tablespoon of prepared wasabi (Optional...I LOVE wasabi, but if you aren't a fan of the heat then leave it out. It definitely gives it a bit of a kick, though it does mellow out in the leftovers.)
1 cup of snow pea pods
1 sheet of nori, chopped or torn (Optional)

Cook rice according to package directions. Remove from heat and place in a very large bowl (I prefer glass) and stir in sushi vinegar immediately. Next stir in frozen edamame into the rice/vinegar mixture while the rice is still hot to thaw them and let sit for about 10 minutes. Add carrots, cucumbers and mushrooms and stir to mix. Add wasabi and stir well to incorporate. Sprinkle the top of the salad with snow pea pods. Chill at least 1 hour before serving. Right before serving add a bit of chopped or torn nori as a topping to each serving if desired.

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June 4, 2007

What's For Dinner?

Tonight I'm having Sushi Salad.

What are you having?

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Four Cheese Veggie Lasagna

Four Cheese Lasagna

Lasagna is the ultimate comfort food. Noodles and cheese, melding with tomato sauce and Italian herbs hits the spot when you want something hearty and warm. Most families have their own versions of lasagna and their own ideas about what goes into them, which may change over time, or who you are making for, I know mine does. Regardless of what you like in your lasagna you can always tweak a basic lasagna recipe and add what you like.

A while back a saw an episode of The Barefoot Contessa where Ina made a lasagna with goat cheese. Now my adoration of goat cheese has been mentioned here many times before and will most likely be mentioned again, but I never got around to actually trying it until the other day and I must say I was highly impressed! It's added a creamy, tangy background that melded just perfectly with the Italian seasoning and tomatoes. Though I've never tried it I would hazard a guess that Feta would be good as well. I may just have to try that notion the next time I make lasagna.

Cooking is all about tweaking here and there and adding ingredients that speak to you. Most importantly you should have fun, while making something that you enjoy. Lasagna is the perfect dish for experimentation and this Four Cheese Veggie Lasagna could be tweaked infinite ways. What sounds good to you?

Oh and this lasagna makes superb leftovers! But then again lasagnas usually do! ;o)

Four Cheese Lasagna Baked

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 - 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1 - 12 ounce package of bionaturæ lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
1 - 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
1 - 4 ounce container of goat cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté onion and mushrooms in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender and then stir in garlic and cook until garlic is done. (Roughly 1-2 minutes.) Add a pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, basil and oregano and stir. Next add drained tomatoes and stir to mix. Remove from heat and set aside.

While your veggies are sautéing cook 1 package of bionaturæ lasagna noodles according to package directions to al dente, drain and set aside. (Note: Any lasagna noodle will do, but I like the bionaturæ lasagna noodles because they are the perfect size for an 8X8 dish without having to be cut!)

Brush an 8X8 glass dish with extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking and follow the steps below.

Step One:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step One

Place two noodles in the bottom of the dish. (Note: As you add layers you may add three noodles to subsequent layers because most dishes have a slight slope to them and get wider as they approach the top.)

Step Two:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Two

Add a layer of ricotta cheese.

Step Three:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Three

Add a layer of the veggie mixture, spreading it out to cover the ricotta.

Step Four:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Four

Sprinkle some parmesan over the veggie layer.

Step Five:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Step Five

Next add some goat cheese crumbles.

Step Six:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Six

And lastly add a layer of mozzarella. (Note: I used pearline fresh mozzarella and like the name suggests, it's simple little balls of mozzarella about the size of a pearl. You can use whatever type of mozzarella you have on hand and tear it if it's fresh mozzarella or shred it if it's from a block. I ran out of pearline so for the top layer I tore some fresh mozzarella from the ball.)

Next repeat steps one through six until you get to the top of your dish.

On your top layer you do NOT want to put a layer of ricotta, nor do you want to put goat cheese. The top layer consists of a layer of noodles, topped with a layer of veggie mixture, sprinkled with parmesan and mozzarella.

Four Cheese Lasagna Ready For The Oven

Place lasagna in the oven on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until cheese on top slightly browns. Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with a tossed salad and/or garlic bread.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Posted by Dianne at 12:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack