March 1, 2012

Creamy Italian Dressing

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

It's happened...

The unthinkable...

To me anyway...

I've run out of the will to cook!

It's part depression, part too much going on all at once, and general lack of energy. Who'd have thought it would happen to me? Certainly not me!

As a result; the not wanting to cook, coupled with the fact that I've been eating healthier, means that Alexis and I have been eating a lot of salads. I love salad. So crisp, so fabulous!


I hate making salads though, even though we've been eating a lot of them. Why is it a salad you make yourself just doesn't taste as good as a salad someone else makes for you? It just doesn't!



I'll tell you why...It's because making a salad is an honest to goodness physical exertion. You've got to wash all the veggies. Then you have to prepare them, slice, chop, etc. Then you have to put it together. Did I mention tossing? After it's all together you have to decide how to top it...That's a lot of effort!

Regardless I've been on a salad kick.

And since on this kick I've been playing around with dressings. I like to make my own for the most part. They taste better, they don't have weird chemicals in them and they're better for you all around. This creamy Italian dressing is one that I put together that I really, really like! It is very similar to the dressing they use at that restaurant whose first word starts with and "O" and second word starts with a "G".

You know the one. Concentrate for a moment and it will come to you.

There you go! That's the one!

Not only is this delicious, it's sinfully easy to make, and let's face it, an easy step in the salad process is a welcome one at that.

Now it's time to try it. Come on...You know you want to!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of light mayonnaise (Note: I prefer Hellman's.)
1/3 cup of white, champagne or rice wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 cup of Romano cheese, finely grated
1 teaspoon of garlic salt or 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, plus 1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 tablespoon of dried parsley

Dump ingredients in a canning jar. Place the lid on tightly and shake to mix. Let the flavors meld for at least an hour (overnight is better) in the fridge and then use to make your salad.

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

How ridiculously easy is that?

Notes: You can play around with the proportions to change the taste slightly. You could also use one or the other of the cheeses, and not both. As always, mix and match!

Posted by Dianne at 3:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 31, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream With Hot Fudge Sauce

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream With Hot Fudge Sauce

Yesterday we had some friends over to help celebrate Memorial Day. We decided to do the standard picnic fare, only our picnic ended up being inside due to heat and air quality, but that's ok too. We had fun, so that's all that matters.

I did most of the cooking on Sunday afternoon, except for cooking the hot dogs and hamburgers and setting the ice cream. On Monday morning all I had to do was organize and few last minute details and put everything together.

I decided I wanted to put a tablecloth on the table, but the problem is that I don't actually have a tablecloth that fits our very long table, so I decided to make one! I took a piece of material that I've had for forever and could never decide what to do with the piece and used part of that. I was very happy with the results!

My handy, dandy tablecloth!

I thought it turned out really well! Martha has nothing on me! That's my little sous chef in the background dancing away.

I had an assortment of drinks as well:

Ready to go

I had Virgil's Orange Cream Soda, Izze Grapefruit soda, Old Dominion Root Beer (It's made with honey! And it's ironically listed on their beer list even though it's non-alcoholic.), Sprite (Jamison's drink of choice as of late), lemonade, unsweet green ice tea and of course water. We had some Corona, hard lemonade and hard limeade in the fridge, but we ended up not diving in to that.

We had a buffet style set up with fruit, veggies, hamburgers and toppings, hotdogs, potato salad, baked beans and chips:

Waiting on the hamburgers and hot dogs

And for dessert we had homemade ice cream and hot fudge sauce! Which are both just perfect on a hot, hazy day like yesterday! We had a very pleasant day. I hope your afternoon was as fabulous as ours!

Now let's talk a little vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce!

What You'll Need for the Ice Cream:
1 quart of heavy cream
1 quart of half and half
1 half gallon of whole milk
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla powder
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
6 egg yolks

In a large stock pot stir together cream, half and half, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, vanilla powder and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat stirring often and let the mixture become hot. Be careful, you don't want this to boil or scald.

When the milk is hot, ladle out some of the hot mixture into a bowl with your egg yolks whisking quickly to temper the eggs. Add this mixture back to the pot and whisk constantly until the mixture becomes slightly thick.

Remove mixture from heat and run through a sieve several times to make sure there are no lumpy egg bits. Cool mixture completely. Overnight is best.

Once mixture is completely chilled add to a large ice cream maker and set according to your ice cream makers instructions.

Notes: I had a bit of the custard mixture left over when I made the ice cream. I'm going to use my small Cuisinart ice cream maker to freeze the rest.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream With Hot Fudge Sauce

What You'll Need for the Hot Fudge Sauce:
4 squares of unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of evaporated milk
1 1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

In a medium sized pot melt chocolate and butter together until completely melted. Slowly add milk and sugar and stir until mixed.

Bring to a slow boil and cook stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Use to top ice cream or any other way you would use chocolate syrup.

Notes: This is the hot fudge sauce that my mom used to make. It brings back so many memories of my childhood all with one little taste!

Posted by Dianne at 5:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 27, 2010

Make Your Own Ketchup

Make Your Own Ketchup

Sherri at the Adventures of Kitchen Girl was talking about making ketchup and this intrigued me. I have wanted to try to do this for several years, but just never got around to actually making some. She shared a link from The New York Times which she adapted and I decided to give it a try!

Yesterday Alexis and I ran some errands and stopped by the orchard. They had exactly one box of "second" tomatoes left and I snatched it up! I ended up adapting the recipe even further and actually doubling it for the most part and I really loved the result!

What's not to like about your own homemade condiments that you know exactly what goes in to them? I'll definitely be making this again. It's easy, just some chopping and stirring here and there, and you end up with a really fabulous end product. That is always a good thing.

What You'll Need:
3 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 apples peeled and chopped (Note: I used the Gala variety.)
2 cups of yellow onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons of sea salt
8-10 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of peppercorns (Note: Next time I think I'll just use ground pepper.)
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

First you want to peel and chop your tomatoes. The easiest way to peel a tomato is to drop it in to boiling water for about 30 seconds and then remove it to a cold water bath. Once it's been in the cool water for 30 seconds or so the skins will peel right off! Place chopped tomatoes in a large stock pot and set aside.

Next you want to peel and chop your apple as well as chop your onion and garlic and add it to the tomatoes. Add the remaining ingredients to your pot and you'll end up with something a little like this:

Make Your Own Ketchup: Read to Cook

The great thing about recipes like this is that you have a little wiggle room in terms of ingredients. It doesn't have to be perfect!

Bring the mixture to a quick boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Process mixture until smooth in a blender or food processor and then return to your pot:

Make Your Own Ketchup: Simmering

Cook for another 30 minutes or until the ketchup thickens. It will also thicken as it cools as well.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container (I like canning jars) for up to 3 months.

Make Your Own Ketchup

Notes: Next time I'm going to cook the ketchup just a bit longer so it will be a little thicker. It didn't thicken up as much as I would have liked when it cooled. I put two pint jars in the fridge, one for me and one for my sister and I froze the rest of the mixture.

Posted by Dianne at 10:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 12, 2010

Did You Know You Could Make Your Own Vanilla Extract?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract? Not only is it ridiculously simple, it's also some of the best vanilla you'll ever taste at a fraction of the cost of what you pay for a bottle of vanilla at your local grocery store. A couple of years ago I made vanilla extract to give as Christmas presents and I haven't bought vanilla extract since!

Have you made your own? No? Curious how it works? Let's get started!

What You'll Need:
Vanilla beans, cut in half
A canning jar with a lid

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to Go

First off you'll need to decide what size jar you want to use. When I'm making it for myself (or close friends/family) I go with the quart sized jar. For gifts the pint sized jar works too. Rule of thumb, a liter of vodka will pretty much fill a quart sized jar.

Next you want some vodka. I like to use Irish vodka?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Irish Vodka

Why? Well I have this fascination with all things Irish, but you can use whatever kind of vodka you like.

Next let's talk vanilla beans!

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Beans

You're going to need 6-8 vanilla beans. First off do NOT go to the store and buy those stupid vanilla beans that are one in the jar for like $10 or something, because then you're going to have one pricey bottle of vanilla extract! That defeats the purpose of making your own and saving yourself some money.

You want to get online either on EBay or and do a search for vanilla beans. I like to buy the organic version, but you've heard my ideas on organic before. You can get a large number of vanilla beans for next to nothing! I bought some a couple of years ago and paid like $14 for 100! I still have them in my pantry and they are just as good as they were the day I bought them.

Trust me, go forth and search. I'll wait....

Did you search? See I told you! Now order yourself some vanilla beans already! ;oP

Now where were we?

Cut each vanilla bean in half:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Beans Cut In Half

Place the split beans in a jar and cover with vodka:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to "Steep"

Be sure and put the lid on tight.

Now comes the waiting part. This process does take a few weeks, about 6 to be exact, until it's ready to use. All you need to do is sit it in your pantry, or on your counter out of direct sun light, and give the jar a little shake now and then. It will start to turn a beautiful brown color and you'll know it's ready to go. Once it's done you use it just like you use the vanilla extract you buy at the store.

Below is a picture of the extract at various stages:

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: Ready to "Steep, Ready to Use and Almost Used Up!

The clear jar is the one I just put together. The jar in the middle is one I put together in December of 2009 and the jar that is almost empty is the one I've been using since December of 2007. Neat hunh?

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract: My Two Year Old Jar Almost Empty

Not only is this sinfully easy, it's also quick! The entire process of getting it in to the jar takes less than 5 minutes. A little forethought is needed so that you have it ready to go when you need it since it needs to "steep" for 6 weeks or so, but shaking it here and there is neither difficult nor time consuming. When you're done you've got a fabulous vanilla extract that just can't be beat!

Notes: I did a little experiment when I made my first batch and used several different types of alcohol as an experiment. For the record bourbon and rum work OK too, though vodka is my favorite medium. The tequila? Well that one didn't turn out too great. You can't win them all! ;oP

Posted by Dianne at 4:33 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 22, 2009

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

I love mangoes, but I rarely eat them because they really are a pain in the rear to cut up. I've tried the tricks that supposedly make cutting them easier, but I have never really found one that I like. Often I buy frozen mango for smoothies, but once in a while I'll buy an actual mango to enjoy.

Mango is great all by itself, but it's really a fun component to add to salsa! This version is cool, fresh and really great to compliment a summer meal. Who says salsa has to be tomato based?

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Ingredients

What You'll Need:
1 mango, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1-3 jalapeños, chopped fine
2 cups of cooked black beans
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped (Note: I am not a fan of cilantro, in fact I despise cilantro, but if you're a fan you could substitute this if you desired. I won't vouch for the over all taste of the salsa though if you do choose this route.)

First chop a mango and add it to a large glass bowl:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Mango

Next add the chopped red onion:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Red Onion

Have I mentioned lately how these should be call purple onions instead? There is not red there! I haven't? Well there you go then! ;oP

Next add cucumber:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Cucumbers

Then jalapeños:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Jalapeño

And then the black beans, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Salt, Pepper, Oil and Vinegar

Toss everything together until well mixed. Then add chopped parsley and stir until incorporated:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Serve immediately or chill for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes: This is great on fish or steaks. Also you'll want to use this within a day of making.

Posted by Dianne at 1:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2009

No Cook Blueberry Jam

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Normally on Friday I post Friday Link Love instead of a recipe, but since I didn't post a recipe yesterday, and in all honesty I haven't had time to read blogs this week, this Friday you're going to get a recipe instead!

As I mentioned yesterday Alexis and I went to the orchard after our trip to the library to pick up some blueberries (and of course peas for Miss G)! I just love blueberry season! Blueberries are my favorite fruit, followed closely by watermelon and fresh pineapple. In fact if you do a search on Dianne's Dishes for blueberries you'll find Blueberry Muffins to Blueberry Ice Cream to Blueberry Cheesecake and everything in between!

I'm a big fan of blueberry jam. In fact I normally get mine from a local company called McCutcheons. I love their jams/jellies/preserves! And as an added bonus they have no high fructose corn syrup in them and use real sugar. That's always a plus in my book. But I've been wanting to try to make some on my own for a while now.

This jam turned out just perfect! The lemon and blueberry go so well together, and it was just the right amount of sweet! It also goes together in no time and you don't have to fuss with canning or anything either since it's a fridge or freezer jam. In less than an hour you've got yourself some fabulous homemade jam!

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Blueberries

What You'll Need:
4 pints of blueberries
2/3 cup of organic cane sugar
The zest of one lemon
The juice of one lemon
1 package of Ball Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin

Rinse berries and pick over them to ensure there are no stems. Mash berries well:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Mashed Blueberries

If there are a few blueberries that don't get mashed that's ok.

Add the zest and juice of one lemon:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Lemon Zest

Also add the organic cane sugar:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Organic Cane Sugar

Stir to mix well:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Mixed and Ready for Pectin

Add pectin 1 tablespoon at a time:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Pectin

And then stir until mixed in. Repeat this process until the pectin is completely gone and well mixed in to the blueberry mixture:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Ready for Jars

Stir for 3-4 minutes and then you're ready to store. I like to use canning jars. Using a funnel ladle the mixture into the jar:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Be sure not to fill the jars quite full, especially if you're going to store this in the freezer:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

This will give you about 3 1/2 pints:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

The one that was going in the fridge I filled a little more full than those going into the freezer.

Let sit for 30 minutes and voilà...Jam!

Store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks or the freezer for 10-12 months.

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Notes: This method should work with other types of fruits and berries too. Next up I want to try peaches!

Posted by Dianne at 8:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 10, 2009

Minty Strawberry "Sauce"

Minty Strawberry Sauce

I've already told you how much I enjoy fresh strawberries, so I won't go there again, but when we got more strawberries this week from our CSA, along with some mint, I was thrilled! I knew immediately that I wanted to do something with them together.

We had a few slices of pound cake left over from our dinner last week (I froze most of it for use later) and I decided to make some Minty Strawberry Sauce to top that and of course it was just perfect! If you've never had mint and strawberries together before try it...It really is fabulous!

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Strawberries

What You'll Need:
1 pint of strawberries
1/4 cup of mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar

In a glass bowl or container chop strawberries to desired size:

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Ready for Sugar and Mint

Stir in mint leaves and sugar until mixed:

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Ready for the Fridge

Cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or until "sauce" forms. Perfect as an ice cream topping for vanilla or vanilla white chocolate ice cream or as a topping on angel food cake or pound cake.

Notes: This goes together quickly, is easy, yet provides a bit of bang in terms of wow factor. This mixture also can be used to make an ice cream similar to this one.

Posted by Dianne at 1:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

This past weekend I was restless. With Alexis not being able to be around people the last few weeks due to her illness and their concerns that she might pick up something else on top of what she already had, I was more than tired of being in our house, looking at the same walls. While I'm a homebody of the biggest sort for the most part, if I HAVE to stay somewhere without the choice to go out, then I get a bit stir crazy!

On Saturday I decided to get out and run some errands. Jamison was at home, so I didn't have to worry about how I was going to keep my very social, very friendly, "I love people!" child from interacting with folks who might be carrying this germ or that that her system might not be able to handle yet, and left her at home with "Dad" as she calls him, while I went and got a few things done.

When I finished doing what I needed to do, I didn't feel like rushing straight home. Jamison was watching Miss G so I decided to take another route home. I would say more scenic, but this whole area is scenic, so it was beautiful either way. It's spring, the trees are either sprouting or entirely green and the whole world is just stunning! Other than spring allergies that come from these pollinating beings, this is why I love spring!

I was driving along, and yes singing my songs, when I remembered that it was now May and that meant the orchard was open! I decided to pop over and see if they had any peas yet, because ours are still growing and not producing yet, and Alexis loves her some peas! She's always liked them, so I thought I'd drop by to see if they had any. They didn't, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some strawberries!

I'll confess no matter what time of year, you'll usually find strawberries in the fridge as they are another of Miss G's favorite things. But there is just something about a plant ripened, local strawberry that makes spring so fun! The taste of fresh, ripe strawberries just can't be beat! I picked up a container, along with some spinach and spring onions and headed home. The strawberries were so good I just had to run over and get some more on Tuesday and this time when I went they had rhubarb too!

Rhubarb is one of those things you either like or you don't. I hear people talking about it each spring, and I'll admit I've had rhubarb all of once, when I experimented with it a couple of years ago, but I just couldn't pass up those beautiful stalks when I saw them on Tuesday, so I picked up a couple of bunches along with the strawberries and headed home. But what was I going to do with them?

I decided that it would be fun to try and make a strawberry rhubarb jam and I was very pleased with the results. (I also made a strawberry rhubarb cobbler...You'll most likely see that one next week!) The jam ended up being tart, but with just the right hint of sweetness. I'm not a fan of overly sugary jams, and if you've ever looked at jam recipes most of them call for inordinate amounts of sugar! 1 cup of fruit to 1 cup of sugar in a lot of cases and let me just say that is more than sugar overkill! Fresh, ripe fruit doesn't need a lot of sugar, it just needs a bit to compliment the flavor and that's what I've done here.

So if you like strawberries, rhubarb and a little tang, this is the jam for you!

Note: You can can this, or store it in the fridge. I'm not going to give you canning instructions because although I do can from time to time I'm not an expert. You can get more information from the National Canning Center. They have a great page set up to tell you exactly what to do!

This was also the first time I used pectin. I've used gelatin in the past, but wanted to try something different. I thought for a while it was going to be more like Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup, but overnight it firmed right up! I was very pleased.

What You'll Need:
6 cups of strawberries, chopped (Note: I like to have big chunks of fruit, but you can chop the fruit and fine or as coarse as you like.)
4 cups of rhubarb, chopped
1 cup of sugar
The zest of one lemon
The juice of one lemon
4 teaspoons of pectin
4 teaspoons of calcium water

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: Strawberries and Rhubarb

Chop fruit and pour into a large stock pot, stir to mix. Add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice and stir to coat. Let sit for an hour or until juice forms.

Once liquid has formed bring mixture to a quick boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10-20 minutes or until the fruit starts breaking down. You want a soupy mixture, with tender fruit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: Ready to Seal

Once mixture is soupy and tender remove from heat. Remove 2 cups of the mixture and place in a glass bowl. Whisk in pectin and calcium water (Note: I've never used pectin before. I used Pomona's Pectin and I don't know if pectin usually uses calcium water or if that is just a Pomona thing.) into the removed strawberry/rhubarb mixture until relatively smooth and then dump this back into the pot and stir until mixed.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: Setting

At this point you can either can the mixture or you can store it in the fridge. I canned it and ended up with two quart jars. I would have preferred smaller jars, but I didn't have the lids.

And there you have jam!

Notes: As I mentioned in the intro I wasn't sure if this was going to set up. I made this around three yesterday and there was a warning on the box that pectin continues hardening until the mixture is completely cool. When I came upstairs last night at 8 the jars were still warm and the mixture was not set. When I went down to the kitchen this morning it had set nicely! Also if you wanted to add more sugar you could, but I liked the slightly sweet, slightly tart results.

Posted by Dianne at 1:08 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 30, 2009

Better Bites: Tomato Sauce

Better Bites: Tomato Sauce

Have you ever read the labels on most pasta sauces? A lot of them have high fructose corn syrup in them and the rest of them have sugar, which is better than the HFCS, but still why cover up the flavor of the tomatoes by adding sweetness? Most of the time they aren't so acidic that you even need to add sugar, so why add it if they don't need it? Making you own sauce, is not only very simple, it's also extremely tasty as well!

This version of tomato sauce is my "winter" version utilizing dried herbs and canned tomatoes, but in the summer you can even utilize fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs! We'll get to that version this summer, but for now let's talk about the "winter" version instead!


What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained (Note: You can use regular or fire roasted.)

In a medium sized stock pot sauté garlic and onion in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onions are tender. Be sure to keep an eye on this so you don't burn your garlic.

Next add the herbs and then the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for at least an hour. (Note: The longer you cook it the more the flavors meld.)

Once cooked you can store it in the fridge in a glass canning jar for several weeks. Use to top pasta or as a sauce for pizza.

Notes: You can add other vegetables into the sauce. I like to add mushrooms and bell peppers if I'm using it as a pasta topper. I tend to leave it more plain, as in this state, when I'm going to use it for pizza sauce.

Posted by Dianne at 12:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 13, 2009

Caramel Hot Fudge From Diana!

Caramel Hot Fudge

Diana and I share the nickname "Di". I noticed her name immediately back in my TWD days because you just notice things like that. I started reading her blog Di's Kitchen Notebook and have been an avid reader since. I was so excited when she agreed to guest blog this week! Be sure and let her know how awesome this hot fudge sauce looks and be sure to stop over at her blog and say hello too!

When Dianne posted on Facebook that she was looking for guest bloggers, I was really excited at the prospect of being one of them. I really enjoy reading her blog. I started following it back when she was also a member of Tuesdays with Dorie. I'm really impressed that she can keep up with posting on a daily basis, and I love the various themes that she comes up with, like Ice Cream Week. In fact, since that was one of my favorites, I thought that it would be fun to talk some more about ice cream, even though it's still technically winter. Fortunately it's pretty warm during the day down here in Texas, and besides, any time is good for ice cream. =)

I tend to be pretty minimalist with my ice cream. My husband Jamie sometimes likes lots of stuff in his ice cream, but I like usually like plain flavors. Chocolate. Vanilla. Mint. Maybe throw some chocolate chips in there. Or a swirl of something. So to make my ice cream choice more interesting for everyone else, I like to make some sort of sauce to go with it. Raspberry coulis, or chocolate sauce, or maybe some caramel. I've been having lots of fun making caramel at home lately. It's gotten to the point where I can even multitask while keeping an eye on molten sugar on the stove. I never could have done that a year ago. =)

At the end of February, I made some Salted Burnt Sugar Ice Cream (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours, though the salt was my addition) to go with another recipe that I made. Afterwards, I had some of the ice cream left, and was looking for something to go with it. Chocolate sounded good, and then I thought about combining the chocolate with caramel to tie everything together. I made some caramel sauce and melted some chocolate into it. The resulting sauce had the texture of hot fudge with an underlying flavor of salty caramel. Mmm.

(I realized later that I'd seen something similar recently on Rebecca's blog, Ezra Pound Cake. Check out her great Cocoa Nib ice cream, too.)

Caramel Hot Fudge

Caramel Hot Fudge Sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Start by putting the water into a medium saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the water, so it all gets wet without any crystals getting on the sides of the pan. Add the corn syrup, which acts as insurance against crystallization. Cover the saucepan and place it over medium heat. After a couple minutes the mixture will start boiling; remove the lid.

At first the sugar mixture will bubble like crazy as the water boils off. Once that happens, the syrup will start to thicken and the bubbles will get bigger and pop more slowly. It will even sound different. After 5 or 6 minutes (I think), the color will start to change, first becoming a pale yellow and eventually starting to turn amber around the edges. At that point, swirl the mixture in the pot, watching carefully as the whole thing gradually darkens in color. Once it reaches a medium to dark amber color, slowly pour in the heavy cream, standing back because steam will shoot out as the cream hits the hot sugar.

The caramel will probably seize up at this point. Add the kosher salt and put the mixture back over low heat, stirring until the caramel melts into the cream and the whole mixture smooths out. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the bittersweet chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth again. Let cool until just warm and add the vanilla. Serve over your favorite ice cream. Leftover sauce can be kept in the refrigerator. I'm not sure how long it will keep--but it probably won't last long anyway. =)

Thanks Diana! And thanks to all who helped me out this week as a guest blogger. I'll be back next week with all new recipes so stay tuned!

Posted by Dianne at 11:08 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 23, 2008

Greek Yogurt Peppercorn Ranch Dressing

Greek Yogurt Peppercorn Ranch Dressing

I'll be completely honest with you...I used to detest Ranch dressing. I don't know what it was, but I just didn't care for it, but recently I've been really hooked on homemade Ranch dressing. A lot of time the bottled stuff just comes off as too sweet, which is sort of silly given it shouldn't be sweet at all, but the homemade stuff I can handle, though it's fun to kick it up a notch and that is just what I did.

Greek yogurt gives this ranch a nice under tone, while the freshly cracked pepper gives it a nice kick. It's just perfect for salads, vegetable dipping or even oven baked chicken. It's always nice to have a versatile, quick and ridiculously easy dressing to go to! If Ranch is your dressing of choice then this is a must try for you!

Greek Yogurt Peppercorn Ranch Dressing

What You'll Need:
1 cup of buttermilk
1 cup of light mayonnaise (Note: I like Hellmann's.)
1 cup of fat free Greek Yogurt (Note: As always I recommend Oikos.)
1 envelope of dry Ranch dressing/dip mix
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix together buttermilk, mayonnaise and Greek yogurt until completely smooth. Stir in Ranch dressing mix until completely incorporated. Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper until well mixed. Chill for at least 1 hour and serve or serve immediately.

Notes: You could leave out the black pepper if you liked, but I really like the flavor it adds.

Posted by Dianne at 10:23 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 26, 2008

Double Onion Dip

Double Onion Dip

For a while now I've been wanting to try and make some onion dip from scratch and the other night when we had some friends over for dinner I decided to test my theory. Most of us have had the onion dip that you make with onion soup mix and sour cream, but I thought about it for a while and wondered if you couldn't make a good dip without having to use the over processed soup mix and this is what resulted. It's creamy and has the illusion of being rich, all while packed with fresh onion and garlic. I actually ended up liking it better than the soup mix equivalent!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1/2 a large sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
A generous addition of freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sea salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 16 ounce container of light sour cream (Note: As always you can use fat free, light or regular sour cream, though fat free would make this sickeningly sweet as the onions themselves give the dip a natural sweetness.)

Sauté onion with thyme, rosemary, pepper and salt until onions are tender and slightly caramelized:

Double Onion Dip: Onions, Garlic and Thyme

Add minced garlic and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes until garlic is done.

Remove onions from the stove and pour into sour cream. Stir to mix. Store dip in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving and stir before putting out to eat. Serve with vegetables and/or bagel or pita chips.

Notes: You could use any type of onion that you like. You could also switch up the herbs if thyme and rosemary aren't your thing.

Posted by Dianne at 7:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 11, 2008

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Spread

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Spread

Since the my first batch of ricotta was a wash yesterday I thought I'd come up with a recipe that utilized the goat cheese that I made that came out so beautifully! I'll get back to the ricotta next week sometime, but for now something with goat cheese is always good! ;o)

This spread (or could use it either way) is a good replacement for Tapenade if you're not a fan of anchovies. It's creamy and has just the right combination of flavors. You can use it as an addition to a sandwich, or as a spread on toast bits or even just dip into with some cut up vegetables. Versatility is always good!

What You'll Need:
1 bulb of garlic
1 - 12 ounce package of button mushrooms
1/2 cup of black olives (Note: You want the type of olives that are stored in brine. You can normally find these in the salad area of your grocery store. And do yourself a favor and get the ones that are already pitted, unlike me who wasn't paying attention to them when she purchased them and had to cut out all those little pits!! ;o))
1/3 cup of goat cheese
3 tablespoons of mushroom broth
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Wrap an entire bulb of garlic in aluminum foil and roast garlic until tender. (Note: Approximately 25-30 minutes usually does the trick. Just stick it with a fork if you're unsure and if it's not soft keep baking!) Let garlic cool until it's cool enough to touch and handle.

While garlic is cooking and/or cooling place mushrooms in a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until mushrooms are tender. (Note: This process makes a basic mushroom broth. You'll need a few tablespoons of this broth for this recipe. Reserve the rest of the liquid, add a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper and you can use it as you would any broth. You can even use it as a substitute for beef broth in a French Onion type soup. The broth can be stored in the fridge for two weeks or frozen for months before use.) Once mushrooms are tender drain and reserve broth.

Once the garlic is cool enough to handle cut the top of the bulb off and squeeze the roasted garlic into your food processor. Add mushrooms, olives, goat cheese. mushroom broth and black pepper to the garlic and process until smooth (or you can do chunky either one...It's completely up to you and what you like). Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes: You can serve this warm or cold. It's delicious either way. Thyme and/or rosemary would be a good addition. You could also add in some caramelized onions. You do not need to add salt to this recipe as the olives are salty enough to season the entire spread. If you can find them, olives in sea salt are always better than the those brined in table salt.

Posted by Dianne at 10:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 8, 2008



It would appear we're having an unofficial dairy week here at Dianne's Dishes with mozzarella yesterday, butter today and goat cheese coming up either tomorrow or Thursday! ;o) After making the mozzarella cheese yesterday Alexis became curious about what else was made with milk and I'm all about encouraging curiosity! We make yogurt so she knows that that has milk, but her inquiring mind wanted to know what else was milk based so I started naming off products and when we landed on butter she asked "How do you make that?" I happened to have a pint of heavy cream left over from Christmas baking from South Mountain Creamery that was going to expire soon so I decided to let her make some so she could see how it works. This is really sort of ironic given she doesn't eat butter, but hey it can be frozen and used later or I happen to know a certain sister who adores butter as much as I adore goat cheese so maybe we'll share with her! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 pint of heavy cream
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (optional)

In the bowl of your mixer add cream and salt. (Note: For unsalted butter omit salt.) Beat on high speed for 3-6 minutes until cream thickens to butter consistency.

The process itself is extremely easy. You dump the cream and the salt, turn on your mixer and sit back and watch. First it will make whipped cream, but you need to go past that point to where it thickens a bit. The consistency should be of spreadable, softened butter. Store in an airtight container and use as you would butter you buy at the store. You can even freeze to use later. The most important aspect of this is again you control what goes into it, including salt levels and that's always a good thing.


Notes: If you can find it use actual heavy cream instead of heavy whipping cream, though either will work. This makes roughly 3 cups. The container that is pictured above holds 3.2 cups and the butter filled most of the space.

Posted by Dianne at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 6, 2007

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

Once in a blue moon I get the taste for a Pimento Cheese sandwich. When I was a child my Mom would make it occasionally and the kind you make is oh so much more satisfying than the type you buy in your local deli. It's not something I eat often, but every other year or so I'll whip up a batch. It's one of those comfort foods at their finest and it's simple to make to boot. Easy comfort...What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
1 - 8 ounce bar of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
2 - 4 ounce jars of pimentos, drained
2-3 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise (Note: I use Helmann's Light.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt (Note: Optional. I only add salt depending on the cheese I'm using. Most of the organic varieties are a bit less salty, so taste the mixture and if it needs salt then add it accordingly.)

In a large bowl mix cheese through pepper until incorporated. Taste. If needed add salt. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Pimento Cheese

Notes: This works well on bread as a sandwich topping or you can use celery sticks and scoop up the mixture. You can easily half this recipe as well.

Posted by Dianne at 3:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 22, 2007

Pumpkin Apple Butter

Pumpkin Apple Butter

This is a fall time favorite of mine! The apple sort of fades into the background and sweetens the pumpkins. The combination together is very scrumptious. Try it and see!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree (Note: If you don't have fresh pumpkin or would rather not bother with it you can use 1 - 15 ounce can of pumpkin instead.)
2 peeled and grated apple (Note: Any type of apple will do. I normally use Fujis or Galas.)
1 cup of unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup of Natural Dark Brown Molasses sugar (Note: Any type of natural brown sugar will do.)
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of ground cloves
1/2 tsp of nutmeg

In a large pot dump in all ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1 1/2 hours stirring from time to time. Apples will break down and mixture will thicken slightly.

You can either can this mixture if you like or you can store it in the fridge. If you do can it it needs to be refrigerated after opened. Once in the fridge it will last 2-3 months.

Serve on toast, biscuits, etc. This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. Also it's very forgiving so a little more of something or a little less won't matter.

Pumpkin Apple Butter

Notes: You could substitute maple syrup or honey for the brown sugar. Any natural sugar will work.

Posted by Dianne at 7:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 2, 2007

Homemade Peanut Butter

Homemade Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a big hit at our house, but I worry about the trans fats that come with commercial brands. Most of the big companies have gotten them down to a point where they can list that they are trans fat free, but if the word "hydrogenated" appears on the label, then the trans fats are still there!

Natural nut butters are the way to go and they are extremely easy to make. You just need some roasted nuts and a little honey. Combine the two and you've got a fantastic alternative to commercial varieties. Get the kids involved, they'll love this process! After you're done grab an apple and smooth on some Homemade Peanut Butter and you've got a fantastic snack!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of dry roasted peanuts (Note: Not salted. You can find plain dry roasted peanuts in most health food stores or natural markets. If you want a salt kick add in 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.)
1/3-1/2 cup of honey (Note: Much like working with flour you might need more or less. When the "butter" starts to form and ends up to the consistency you like stop adding honey.)

In a food processor process peanuts until chopped fine. Start adding honey with the processor still going until "butter" forms to the consistency you like. Store in an air tight container.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Notes: This will work with any roasted nut. Also natural peanut butters tend to separate sometimes so you may need to stir before using. If you want a crunchy variety stir in a 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts.

Posted by Dianne at 10:02 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 10, 2007

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad

I like to get this salad from time to time at steakhouses. Jamison is a big meat eater, and I am to some degree, though I've tried to steer away from it and I don't eat that much red meat, but for some reason I just crave it when I don't eat it, even when I've actually gone months without. Oh wait, that was a tangent...Where was I?

Oh yes, Blue Cheese Wedge Salads...This is a basic, simple dish that is classic in many ways. What's not to like about lettuce, tomatoes and homemade blue cheese dressing? And when the dressing is low-fat and just as delicious at the "normal" version it's a lovely, cool treat on a hot, steamy day and folks let's face it we've had a ton of those around here lately.

The Blue Cheese Dressing itself came about a few years ago when I couldn't find a commercially produced variation that was what I had in mind as to what blue cheese dressing should be. I wanted real, big chunks of blue cheese throughout and not those little bits of blue cheese that were present in most store bought varieties. Some varieties didn't even have chunks of blue cheese at all! That's not what blue cheese dressing should be!

If you like blue cheese dressing, then you'll love this version. Everyone I've ever served it to has loved it, in fact it was the first thing my sister requested for me to make for her after Nelson was born! This is one of my most requested recipes in the real world. :o)

What You'll Need for the Dressing:
1 cup of fat free buttermilk
1 cup of light mayonnaise
1 cup of light or fat free sour cream
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1-2 teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper (I add more or less depending on my mood.)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder or salt
1 cup of blue cheese, crumbled or chopped coarsely

In a large bowl or mason jar mix buttermilk, mayo and sour cream. Stir in sea salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then add blue cheese and stir or shake to mix. Serve immediately or can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

What You'll Need for the Salad:
1/2 a head of a small Romaine lettuce or 1/4 a head of iceberg lettuce
1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced or quartered
2-3 tablespoons of blue cheese dressing

Place the lettuce wedge in the middle of a plate. Top with tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. Serve immediately.

Notes: This blue cheese dressing is much lighter than full fat versions and it's much better than any commercial brand I've ever tried, but then again that's not hard! ;o) It has about 70 calories for 2 tablespoons and according to MasterCook about 7 grams of fat, but MC does not have an option for light mayo or fat free buttermilk, so it might be slightly less. It tastes divine and you'll never miss those extra calories or fat! ;o) Other variations could be the addition of crumbled bacon, or sunflower seeds. Sometimes I omit the garlic powder or salt from the recipe too. It just depends on my mood.

Posted by Dianne at 7:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 26, 2007

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.

Posted by Dianne at 7:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

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

February 18, 2007

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

As I have mentioned before I'm all about fresh salad dressing. This little number is tart, a little sweet and oh so delicious!

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup of white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of honey

Combine ingredients and mix thoroughly. (I like to mix it in a mason jar. Throw the lid on and shake! It's the perfect way to mix it all up!) Serve immediately. Store any leftovers at room temperature.

Note: I like the flavor of vinegar so I go heavier on the vinegar and lighter on the oil, but you can always reverse the proportions if you like and add 1/2 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of vinegar.

Posted by Dianne at 4:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007

Salad Dressings

A year or so ago I stopped buying bottled salad dressing for the most part. I'm not a huge fan of Ranch dressing, though my family and Jamison's are and I kept having to throw it out, I couldn't find a Blue Cheese dressing that tasted the way I thought it should and I also couldn't find a thousand island dressing I cared for, so I started making my own! Much less waste, more natural, less preservatives and it tastes better to boot!

Today I made Ranch dressing and Thousand Island dressing for our guests this evening. The Ranch dressing is just my take on the recipe on the back of the box. I always tweak everything. That's just what I do! ;o) The Thousand Island dressing I came up with all on my own. Both are simple, delicious and MUCH better than anything you will ever buy in a bottle!

Ranch Dressing

To Make The Ranch Dressing:
1 cup of light sour cream
1 cup of fat free buttermilk
1 cup of Hellmann's light mayonnaise
1 package of Ranch dressing mix
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix thoroughly and chill for at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Thousand Island Dressing

To Make the Thousand Island Dressing:
1/2 cup of Hellmann's light mayonnaise
1/2 cup of organic ketchup (organic ketchup does not have high fructose corn syrup, while the ones that aren't organic normally do)
1/2 cup of sweet pickle relish
A pinch of sea salt

Add ingredients and stir to mix.

Like I said simple! Coming soon Honey Lime Vinaigrette and Blue Cheese Dressing!

Posted by Dianne at 4:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack