August 15, 2011

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My! (And a Simple, Yet Fabulous Recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles!)

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My!

It's that time of year again...The time to save some of your harvest for use during the winter. My three favorite methods include canning, preserving and freezing. I also dry things like fruit or tomatoes from time to time too.

Living on the side of a mountain has its perks. It's cooler up here than down in the valley, even though we've had some miserably hot days this summer all together, we tend to get a bit more rain and you can't beat the view! Well the view isn't really a perk I suppose, but it's enjoyable none the less. I'm an ocean/water girl by nature, but I have to say this view has really, really grown on me.

The bad thing about living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Central Maryland is the wildlife! Daily residents in our yard include ground hogs, who are voracious little rats, rabbits, who are pretty voracious themselves, deer, who well are pretty voracious too, along with a sundry other creatures (including a few SNAKES eek!) that all mill about. The thing these beasties have in common? They love to eat anything that I plant in my "garden"!

Meet one of our resident groundhogs:

One of our resident groundhogs: AKA Satan

Or Satan as I have dubbed him. Sure he looks all sweet and cute sitting there munching on rotten apples that have fallen from the tree, which I'm more than happy to share with him and his little fuzzy family, but he's really an evil little thief of massive proportions! Don't let his charming little demeanor fool you...This guy is trouble!

Despite having numerous tomato plants this year all of the ripe ones have been eaten by the deer, ground hogs and rabbits before I have gotten to enjoy them. Luckily we have a few nice Farmer's Markets around the area each week as well as a nearby orchard that has a multitude of various fruits and vegetables so I've been buying my tomatoes from them.

I have beautiful tomatoes:

Green Tomato

But once this sucker starts turning the least bit red one of my yard critters will end up eating it before I get the chance. Excuse me while I grumble a moment about evil animals.....

Where was I?

Tomatoes!

The only type of tomatoes I've grown this year they haven't munched is my cherry tomatoes:

Cherry Tomatoes

And let me tell you these little guys are good, but sometimes you want something a little bigger than these little gems.

Tomato Sauce

For the past few years toward the end of summer I've purchased bushels upon bushels of what they call "second tomatoes". What are second tomatoes? They're the tomatoes that grow into a weird shape, or have a blemish here, or a spot there. There is nothing wrong with these tomatoes, but some people can't see past their "ugly" (And I use this term sarcastically...Who cares what it looks like as long as it tastes ok??!!?!) exterior. You may have to cut a spot out here or there, but they are still perfectly good tomatoes to eat, can or even freeze. Don't let the look of something fool you. You know like the groundhog we mentioned above! ;oP

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a bevy of information if you're interested in preserving your own food. They have detailed information on the methods you need to use and their instructions on canning is invaluable. The recipes, the techniques and everything are right there. My mom got their "cookbook" a few years ago and I've used the soup out of that thing! I use their water bath method to can my tomatoes and tomato sauce.

I also like to take fresh fruit and make fruit fillings for desserts during the winter by freezing them for use later. So far this summer I've froze several jars of peach, cherry and blueberry fillings. It's extremely easy to do these, you just cook them with a little sugar until the berries are soft. You remove the fruit from the heat, let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and then place the mixture in a wide mouthed quart sized glass jar with an inch of head room at the top, put the lid on and then freeze them.

How easy is that?

To use the fillings you just take them out of the freezer, let them thaw and then you can make pie, cake, pastries, sauce, ice cream, etc. The blueberries just go in whole, with the juice and zest of a lemon, the cherries just have to be pitted and the peaches peeled, pitted and mashed. As I mentioned above you add a little sugar and cook until the fruit is soft. These little fillings are pretty easy to do and taste better than anything you'd ever buy at the grocery store.

Another favorite thing this time of year for me is pickling cucumbers! These cucumbers have such a lovely, crisp, fresh taste and as their name implies they make fabulous pickles! I'm going to share with you a really simple, quick refrigerator pickle that are simply fabulous! Let's get to it shall we?

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

What You'll Need For The Refrigerator Dill Pickles:
1/4 cup of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons of dried dill
~OR~
1 bunch of fresh dill
Pickling cucumbers (Note: These are the smaller, crisp cucumbers that are abundant during the summer.)
1 1/2 cups of vinegar (Note: I like apple cider vinegar for this, but you can use plain white vinegar instead.)
Water

Place peppercorns, sea salt, sugar, garlic and dill in a quart sized canning jar. Slice cucumbers and add to the jar until you reach 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Pour in vinegar and then fill up the rest of the jar with water. Give the jar a shake to mix up the ingredients and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.

Pickles last about 2 months in the fridge.

Notes: You could also add in some red or Vidalia onion strips to the mix as well.

Posted by Dianne at 3:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 6, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I love chocolate covered strawberries. I rarely have them though, and I had never made them. For some reason this was one of those things I had in my head as being difficult, but it couldn't be further than the truth! They really are quite simple, and they take next to no time to actually make as well.

There are many variations you can do in terms of chocolate covered strawberries. You can make them really fancy and make them look like something, like a football, or a tuxedo, or even Santa, or they can be really simple and simply be dipped in chocolate and possibly drizzled with a little white chocolate for flare. Or how about some rainbow sprinkles added to give it a punch of color and whimsy?

Most of the time chocolate covered strawberries are considered a romantic gift, or a gift for a woman, but they could be given to anyone at anytime. Who wants to wait around for a special occasion when they are so simple and easy to make. Generally speaking they're somewhat healthier than the average dessert as well, especially if you use dark chocolate. What are you waiting for?

What You'll Need:
Ripe strawberries, washed and patted dry
1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (Note: You can use milk, semi, dark, bittersweet, etc.)
1 tablespoon of shortening (Note: Look for a version without trans-fats.)
Bamboo skewers or toothpicks
A foam block to stick the dipped strawberries in

First you want to wash and dry your strawberries and pick out what kind of chocolate chips you want to use:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Chocolate and Strawberries

I like to use Ghirardelli chips or Green and Black's baking bars chopped up into bits.

Place the chocolate chips and the shortening in a microwave safe glass bowl:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Ready to Melt

Microwave for 20 second intervals at half power, stirring between rounds, until chocolate is melted and smooth:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Dipping Choclate

Now it's time to start dipping!

While the chocolate is melting, insert toothpicks or bamboo skewers in to the top of your strawberries:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Ready to Dip

If you want you can remove the strawberry caps, but I like to leave them on. They add a bit of pizazz!

Next dip the individual strawberries in to the chocolate to coat and stick toothpicks in a foam block so the chocolate on the strawberries can set or harden:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Chocolate Setting

You can make them set up quickly by placing the block in the fridge and it will harden within 5 to 10 minutes. Or you can leave them at room temperature until they harden in 20 to 30 minutes.

And now you've got some really fabulous chocolate covered strawberries!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Doesn't that look like the perfect dessert or snack?

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Indeed it does!

Notes: You can also fill chocolate covered strawberries by coring out the center and adding a filling of your choice. One of my friends on Twitter suggested cookie dough. You could do sugar cookie or chocolate chip! Or how about a cheesecake type filling? Or butter cream icing would be great too. Be creative!

Posted by Dianne at 12:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2010

Lemon Granita

Lemon Granita

I love granita. It's so easy to make and it's a really great dessert, that isn't that bad for you and is just perfect for summer!

You can make granita with pretty much any fruit and this time of year when fruits are so readily available and fresh it's a really great time to make granita if you've never tried it! It's simple, just a little scraping here and there and you have a really great dessert in just a few hours. What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need:
The juice of 10 lemons
1/2 cup of water
4 tablespoons of organic cane sugar (Notes: I like the tartness of lemons. If you want it a bit sweeter then you could add up to 1/2 cup of sugar.)

Mix lemon juice, water and sugar together with a whisk until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture in to a shallow dish like a pie plate and place in the freezer.

You'll want to check this mixture every 30 minutes and as it freezes you will scrape the mixture with a fork to ensure that as it freezes it doesn't freeze into a solid block, but makes a fluffy frozen mixture instead. The sides will freeze first so scrape them toward the center. Keep scraping the granita until the mixture is completely frozen (2-4 hours depending on your freezer) and you have a fluffy frozen mix.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes roughly 4 servings.

Notes: For an adult treat stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of light or coconut rum or even lemon vodka would be nice in place of the water.

Posted by Dianne at 1:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2010

Grilled Peaches And Pound Cake With Peach Ice Cream

Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake with Peach Ice Cream

When my parents came to visit this past week they brought me their old grill. We used to use it when we camped out at the lake in the summers and it was just sitting in Mom's garage collecting dust. I had hoped to bring it back with me when I was in Tennessee a few weeks ago, but both trips there just wasn't room in the car. We killed two birds with one stone; Mom got the grill out of her garage and I finally have a grill again! My mom's only request? "If you decide later you don't want it you have to find somewhere else for the grill to live!" Deal!

I have to admit that charcoal freaks me out a bit, especially the kind that is drenched in chemicals to ignite. You know me, I'm not much of a chemical person and avoid them at all costs. I was thrilled when we found a natural charcoal that was made from hardwood charcoal and put together with a vegetable binder!

Charcoal

I was further thrilled when I realized by purchasing a charcoal chimney you didn't need lighter fluid!

My New Charcoal Chimney

There's a bit of a learning curve with this apparently and this go around wasn't perfect, but I got it smoking!

My New Charcoal Chimney

And then we really got it going!

My New Charcoal Chimney

Next time I'll put more charcoal in the chimney and put the paper underneath it instead of the in the chimney itself! You live, you learn! But no lighter fluid! Woot!

Overall this really is a simple, yet delicious summer time treat that gives you a bit of wow factor, yet doesn't take a ton of time or a lot of effort. I love fresh, simple desserts like that!

What You'll Need:
Peach ice cream
Peaches, cut in half and pitted
Pound cake, sliced (Note: You can buy one at the store like I did this go around, or you can make one. This is my favorite.)

Obviously you'll want to make your ice cream ahead of time and have it ready to go.

Next up grill your peaches:

Peaches and Corn Grilling

I actually grilled the peaches with our dinner and then let them cool off before we ate them. They were fabulous! It's simple to do, just cut the peach in half, remove the pit and place it face down on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes or until tender.

How easy is that?

Next grill the pound cake!

Slice your pound cake and place the slices on the grill:

Pound Cake Grilling

This process basically just toasts the pound cake and deepens its flavor! Toast each side about 1-2 minutes until golden:

Pound Cake Grilling

Now you're ready to put your dessert together. A slice of pound cake, a grilled peach and a scoop of peach ice cream and voila...Dessert is served!

See easy peasy!

Notes: You can grill many fruits. Apples, bananas, pineapple, plums, nectarines, etc.

Posted by Dianne at 11:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 1, 2009

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

Another wonderful thing about fall are apples! If you take a drive out through the country you'll come across numerous orchards that have tons of fresh, crisp, fabulous apples! Beautiful leaves and tons of apples. What could be better than that?

There are many things you can do with apples, but one of my favorite ways to use apples, though I rarely make them, are baked apples! With a few simple ingredients you've got a fabulous autumn treat that can't be beat. It's also versatile because you can use it as a side dish or dessert. Who doesn't like multipurpose dishes?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 apple, cored
A small chunk of bread
1 tablespoon of butter, cut into six pieces
1 tablespoon of natural brown sugar
Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Core apple:

Baked Apples: Cored Apple

Chop butter into bite sized pieces:

Baked Apples: Butter

Next stuff the chunk of bread in the bottom of the apple to stop up the hole and then press the butter down into the apple and "pack" it in:

Baked Apples: Bread and Butter

Top butter with brown sugar:

Baked Apples: Brown Sugar

All of the sugar might not fit in the hole, but that's ok. Just get as much of it into the hole as possible and the rest of it can just top the apple and even fall down into the dish.

Sprinkle with cinnamon:

Baked Apples: Cinnamon

I like a lot of cinnamon, but you can use as little cinnamon, or as much as you like.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until apple is tender and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit five minutes and then serve.

Notes: If you wanted to make this a dessert you could top it with whipped cream, but I like it as a side dish to pork. The bread is there to keep most of the butter and sugar inside the apple as it bakes.

Posted by Dianne at 7:11 PM | Comments (5) | 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 27, 2009

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

What better way to use my gorgeous, fresh, organic, local strawberries and asparagus then get creative with a salad? The flavors meld very well and you've got a lovely combination of savory and sweet all mixed into one! This dish is super easy, very delicious and comes together very quickly to make a healthy dish you can use as a main course or as a side dish. Don't you just love versatile recipes?

Now what to do with the rest of the strawberries... ;oP

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 springs of thyme, leaves stripped from stems
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pint of strawberries, chopped

Strawberry Asparagus Salad: Asparagus and Garlic

Sauté asparagus and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil with thyme leaves, sea salt and some freshly ground pepper until asparagus is slightly tender and slightly browned. Remove from heat.

Place cut strawberries in a glass bowl. Add asparagus/garlic mixture and toss to coat. Serve warm, or even chilled. It's good either way!

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

How simple is that?

Notes: After the fact I thought about adding crushed chile pepper. I think I will next time!

Posted by Dianne at 2:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 6, 2008

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

I'm in an appley mood this week, so let's do another apple recipe shall we?

Traditionally when you think of baked apples, you think of a whole apple, that has been cored and filled with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and/or nutmeg and possibly some raisins. But I wanted to try something a little different and it worked! These apples turned out to be amazing, all with no butter or sugar...What's not to like about that?

This could easily be a side dish, or how about using it to top waffles or pancakes? You could even use the apples to make a muffin! The possibilities are endless!

Note: It has come to my attention that my recipes/photos are being scraped from this site and posted on other sites without my permission. If you are not reading this through www.diannesdishes.com or the associated RSS feed then the content is stolen. I have not authorized my content to be posted anywhere else. Please e-mail me at diannesdishes at gmail dot com and let me know if you see things from my site that have been posted somewhere else. Thanks!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon of honey
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss together apple, honey and olive oil until apples are coated. Place in a baking dish. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg and bake for 25-30 minutes until apples are soft. Serve immediately.

Baked Apples

Notes: How easy is that? This version is much healthier than your standard baked apple, but trust me...You'll never miss the butter or the sugar!

Posted by Dianne at 7:23 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2008

Apple Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Apple Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

It's apple season! The other day at the orchard I picked up some fresh Galas and besides being delicious all on their own (apples are one of Lex and my favorite snacks!) I knew I wanted to bake something with them too. I thought about making a basic apple cake, but decided I wanted to kick it up a notch so why not add some chocolate chips? The result was fabulous! And the most important thing is that it's extremely easy to make...What's not to like about that? Whether you'd like this for breakfast or dessert, if you like chocolate and apples this is the one for you!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of apples, chopped (Note: I used Gala, but whatever kind you like will work.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup of safflower oil
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 of an 11.5 ounce package of chocolate chips (Note: I used 60% Bittersweet, but you can use milk, semi or even go crazy and use white chocolate chips...It's all up to you!)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Apple Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake: Apples

Chop apples. Toss with 1/2 cup of sugar and set aside.

In a large bowl stir together flour, sea salt, baking powder and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Add eggs, safflower oil, vanilla and buttermilk and stir until batter forms. Add apples and stir to mix. Next stir in chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.

Pour mixture into a round pie plate that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 35-35 minutes until golden brown and done through. Remove from oven, let cool and serve.

Apple Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Notes: If you wanted to take this over the top you could drizzle it with a little caramel sauce and/or top it with whipped cream.

Posted by Dianne at 8:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 16, 2008

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad

I love watermelon. Alexis does too. In fact when I was pregnant with Alexis I craved these things: Watermelon, cucumbers, chicken salad, beans and baked Cheetos. Alexis currently eats all of the things on that list except for chicken salad, and in all honesty I don't think that it is that she doesn't like chicken salad, she just has never shown any interest in trying it, but let's get back to watermelon.

Watermelon is one of those things that nine times out of ten you will find in our fridge. Now don't get me wrong, I love watermelon too, but there also is only so many times you can eat something without getting bored with what you are eating. Watermelon has of late fallen into that category with me.

For years I've seen watermelon salads and nine times out of ten they are paired with Feta. It's been on my list of things I've wanted to try for a long time, but I get side tracked easily, who doesn't? One night last week when Jamison was in class, Alexis wanted watermelon as part of dinner so I decided it was high time to try my hand at some watermelon salad and I must say I was highly pleased with how it turned out!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 1/2 cups of watermelon, chopped
1/2 an avocado, cut into chunks
1 small cucumber, sliced (Note: I'm talking pickle cucumber size here. You want about 1 cup of cucumbers.)
1 ounce of feta, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a bowl toss together watermelon, avocado and cucumber. Sprinkle with feta, some freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and then top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

How easy is that? But trust me no one will know! ;oP

Watermelon Salad: A Bite

Notes: You could use chopped mint in place of parsley if you wanted, but I was out.

Posted by Dianne at 7:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 4, 2008

Patriotic Pie

Patriotic Pie

It's the Fourth of July! And what better way to celebrate than having a dessert that is red, white and blue! This strawberry, blueberry pie with meringue is just the ticket! It's a simple pie to make and it turns out fabulous every time! What's better than that?

Patriotic Pie: A Bite

As a child we always spent the 4th out at the lake. There would be burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, homemade ice cream, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, lots of swimming, fishing, some boating and at the end of the evening fireworks! I was thinking about that yesterday. It was a lot of fun...Sometimes you just get nostalgic...All of that to say I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday! I know we will be despite the less than stellar weather! ;o)

Anyway, what does that have to do with pie? Nothing! Let's get to the recipe shall we?

Patriotic Pie: A Slice

What You'll Need For The Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/2 sticks of very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup of ice water

~OR~

1 store bought single crust

Note: If you are using the store bought crust, make sure it's thawed if it's frozen, but still chilled and proceed to the filling step. If you are making your own see below.

In a bowl stir together flour and salt to mix. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is pebbly. Add water and stir until ball forms. (Note: Depending on the humidity you may need more or less water. Add water slowly and when the ball forms stop. If you need more than a cup don't sweat it.) On a floured surface roll the dough out into a circle. Press into a pie dish, crimping the edges and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill.

Patriotic Pie: Ready for Meringue

What You'll Need For The Pie Filling:
3-4 cups of whole strawberries
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 cup of whole blueberries
1/3 cup of corn starch

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large pot cook strawberries, sugar and water, stirring gently so as not to squash the strawberries until strawberries are just tender and syrup has formed. Add blueberries and corn starch and stir to mix. Remove from heat when the mixture thickens (about 2 minutes).

Pour strawberry/blueberry mixture into your pie shell and bake for 20-30 minutes until pie crust edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

What You'll Need For The Meringue:
4 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

In the bowl of a mixer whip egg whites and sugar on high until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the top of the pie and bake for 2-3 minutes until meringue is brown. Let pie cool for 30 minutes an serve.

Patriotic Pie

Notes: Meringue not your thing? Whipped cream will work fine too. You could also use another combination of fruit if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 8:53 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

June 24, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: My Version Of A Mixed Berry Cobbler, With A Mini Blueberry Sidecar Cobbler On The Side

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mixed Berry Cobbler

It's Tuesday! So you know what that means...Tuesdays with Dorie! Not to mention today is Alexis' fifth birthday! Five years...Where has the time gone!??!? I most likely will not get a chance to get around to everyone's blogs today to see your cobblers and comment since we'll be having a fun day of birthday celebration, starting with a waffle breakfast and presents and then a trip to the zoo instead, so please forgive me this week! I'm sure you all understand and I'll be back around the block next week!

So this week's recipe was Mixed Berry Cobbler and was chosen by Beth of Our Sweet Life! And cobbler is one of those desserts from my childhood. My mom made many cobblers! Normally she would make peach, which I adored, or blackberry, which was not my thing, and it was most likely served while still hot with some vanilla ice cream! So I have to admit when I saw Dorie's recipe I decided immediately that I would be using my own recipe this week, but that's good for you because you get an extra recipe, and who doesn't like another recipe to add to the collection! ;oP

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mixed Berry Cobbler and A Blueberry Cobbler Side Car

I actually made two cobblers. I made the Mixed Berry version for my sister, because I had some frozen raspberries that I needed to get rid of. In honor of full disclosure I have to say I detest raspberries. I've tried them over an over, but I just do not like them. I do not like blackberries either. With raspberries it's a taste (Too sweet? Too tart? I can't figure it out!) and texture thing (they are fury!) and with blackberries it's just a taste thing. Alexis had wanted to try raspberries, so we picked up a small package and she wasn't all that fond on them, so I froze them, intending to give them to my sister anyway because she does like them and then I kept forgetting to take them to her so now she got them, but she just got them in a bit different form! ;oP

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mixed Berry Cobbler, No Blueberry Cobbler

I also made a small mini-cobbler with just blueberries for me. I ended up putting all the strawberries in the Mixed berry cobbler. But I was ok with just blueberries too. I love me some blueberries!

My sister brought over some berries that they had picked at their CSA and I used those. There is just nothing like a fresh strawberry! I must say however that I do not agree with Dorie in terms of strawberries in cobbler (or maybe cooking in general). I don't find that they have too much water content in them and I don't find that they make a soggy cobbler. In fact I've made cobblers many times with only strawberries and they turn out no differently than any other, so throw in as many strawberries as you like!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mixed Berry Cobbler

Sadly I didn't have any vanilla ice cream on hand, but the cobbler was good all on it's own. My sister really liked the Mixed Berry version. (She tried both and actually took the Mixed Berry Cobbler home!) I tried them both as well, but to me the Mixed Berry version was overpowered by the raspberries. Katherine commented on how the raspberry didn't over take the cobbler, but I think for me if the raspberry is there at all I taste it and it ruins the entire thing for me. Oh well. She enjoyed it and that is all that counts!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mixed Berry Cobbler: Ready to Bake

So there you have it my take on this week's Tuesday With Dorie Mixed Berry Cobbler. Check out the recipe below and be sure and stop over at the other Tuesday With Dorie blogs and see how their cobblers turned out!

What You'll Need For The Mixed Berry Cobbler Filling:
3-4 cups of mixed berries
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of apple juice

Place berries in a large bowl. (Note: They can be fresh, frozen, or a mixture of both. Also if you want more than 4 cups of berries throw them in...There are no wrong answers with cobbler!) I used fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries and frozen raspberries. Add sugar and apple juice and stir to coat. Set aside.

What You'll Need For The Cobbler "Dough":
2 cups of unbleached flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/3 cup of organic sugar
1 cup of half and half
1 cup of light sour cream (Note: I normally use buttermilk, but I was out and sour cream works just fine.)
2 eggs
1 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, sea salt, baking powder, baking soda and organic cane sugar until well mixed. Next add half and half, sour cream and eggs and stir until smooth. Add melted butter and stir until completely mixed. (Note: You'll have a batter, not a dough.)

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray and pour the batter into the dish. Dump the fruit mixture on top of the batter and place the baking dish on a baking tray so if it spills over you're oven is safe from dirtiness! ;o) Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30-340 minutes until crust is well browned. Serve immediately or keep covered and serve at room temperature.

Notes: I sometimes sprinkle sugar on the top of the cobbler before baking, though I did not this time. Also cobbler is superb with vanilla ice cream so don't be afraid to break out a scoop or two! ;o)

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June 4, 2008

Fruit Salad a la Alexis

Fruit Salad a la Alexis

Last week when Alexis and I were at the grocery store one of the people that worked there gave Alexis a piece of paper that had kid geared recipes on it along with some cartoon character, which I don't remember at the moment, designed to get kids interested in cooking. I didn't want to burst the person's bubble and tell then that Alexis already was interested in cooking so we took the free handout and went home.

When we got home Alexis of course wanted to read the sheet. I glanced over it and there was nothing offensive (i.e. trying to market a specific product to a child) so when she asked me what the main recipe said we read it together. She can read some small words, but she can't read completely by herself yet, though she gets better at doing just that everyday.

The recipe was for a Waldorf type salad. It had apples, grapes, mayonnaise and sugar. (They were actually marketing this as a "healthy" recipe...Um no!) Alexis immediately told me "Let's make this! But I want to add cherries and strawberries." Easy enough. "Oh and Mom no mayonnaise and sugar!" Well I agree with that too. "And when we finish I want for you to put it on your 'bog'!" "Blog..." "That's what I said!"

So today's recipe is directly from Miss G! She also liked this so much she had it for lunch two days in a row! I pointed out that she had had fruit salad many times before, but she told me "Your fruit salad is good, but mine is better!" OK then!

Anyway, so this is the fruit salad that Alexis "came up" with...She's so my child! ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 large apple, chopped
1 cup of grapes
1 cup of strawberries
1 cup of sliced cherries

Toss fruit together and serve.

Notes: Any fruit will work.

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May 12, 2008

Fruity Watermleon Smoothie

Fruity Watermelon Smoothie

Most mornings I eat some sort of fruit and occasionally I like to make a smoothie. Smoothies are great because it's an easy way to get in several servings of fruits and/or vegetables in one sitting, all while having a delicious breakfast or snack! Pick the fruits and/or veggies you like (you can even throw in nuts and/or seeds if you like!) and take it for a spin the blender and you've got an instant, healthy breakfast or snack that will really hit the spot.

What You'll Need:
1 cup of watermelon
1/2 cup of blueberries
3-4 strawberries
1 banana, sliced (Note: I usually use a frozen banana, but I didn't have any frozen bananas today so I used ice instead. If you use frozen fruit you can leave out the ice.)
1/2 cup of orange juice
5-6 ice cubes (Optional)

Fruity Watermelon Smoothie: Ready to Blend

Dump ingredients in the jar of your blender and blend until smooth. (Did I mention how easy this was?)

Makes one large smoothie or two small smoothies.

Fruity Watermelon Smoothie

Notes: There is no need to use any sweetener in a smoothie as the fruit/juice is sweet enough in and of itself. You also don't have to use ice or frozen fruit, but I like the way it makes the consistency of the smoothie.

Posted by Dianne at 9:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 7, 2008

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

Before the gluten had to go Blueberry Muffins were one of Jamison's favorites. Of course his version came out of a box, but that's neither here nor there! ;oP So now it was time to come up with a gluten free version that Jamison could enjoy and this happened to fill that bill.

One nice thing about these muffins is that they stay moist, even days later. The consistency is very good as well. There is no residual graininess or anything of that nature either that sometimes happens with gluten free baked goods. This is one you could definitely take and serve to gluten eaters without them really noticing and sometimes that is just what you need.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

What You'll Need:
2 cups of sweet potato flour
1 cup of tapioca flour
1 cup of sorghum flour
1 3/4 cups of organic cane sugar
4 tablespoons of powdered milk
3 tablespoons of xanthum gum
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
1 cup of plain yogurt (Note: I used fat free.)
4 eggs
1/3 cup safflower oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
1 - 10 ounce package of frozen blueberries (Note: If you can't find a 10 ounce package then 12 or 14 ounces will work fine.)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl mix or sift together sweet potato flour through baking powder. Set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together through buttermilk until smooth. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until dough forms.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins: The Dough

Stir in blueberries until incorporated and place dough in muffin pan that has been lined with cupcake liners. Each liner should be 3/4ths of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.

Makes roughly 30 muffins. Store in an airtight container to retain moistness.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

Notes: In theory this should work with any frozen berry. I say in theory, because as I've learned since this gluten free adventure began, theories that might work with regular flour sometimes go astray when you're dealing with no gluten.

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May 5, 2008

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: Scooped

So you buy those heavenly smelling, ripe, juicy strawberries and just for fun you pick up two packs, because well they smell so heavenly and you just know that the taste will more than compare, because after all a good smelling strawberry is a good tasting strawberry! You eat some fresh, you might throw some into some yogurt, cereal or a smoothie, you can use them to make various salads or there is always cobbler or shortcake and of course strawberry ice cream, but what if you want to take the ice cream and switch it up a bit? What if you want to make it a little different? Why not throw in a little chocolate mint?

I have been looking for chocolate mint for years and when we went to South Mountain Creamery's festival a week ago the grower that had a booth there actually had it! Some say it's doesn't taste or smell like chocolate, but I disagree. It does have a hint of chocolate there. Others say it was named that because of the sensation it brings to your tongue when you bite into much like an Andes Mint. Regardless the chocolate mint gives the ice cream a cool, fresh burst and it really compliments the strawberries. The mint doesn't over power the overall taste, it simply adds to flavor with a hint of freshness and mint.

Note: This recipe is designed to fit in this ice cream maker. You can double or triple the recipe or whatever you need to do to fit in a larger model.

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: The Strawberries!

What You'll Need:
2-4 cups of ripe strawberries, capped and chopped into pieces (Note: I like little bits of frozen strawberries throughout the my ice cream, but if you prefer it to be smooth then process in a food processor until smooth. I also like a lot of strawberry taste so use more strawberries or less depending on what you like.)
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
1-2 tablespoon of fresh chocolate mint, chopped fine
1 - 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 - quart of heavy cream

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: Strawberries with Sugar and Chocolate Mint

In a large bowl add strawberries, mint and sugar and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 1 hour to let the strawberries and mint form a syrup with the sugar. You can leave it to sit overnight in the fridge if you like.

Stir in sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream and pour the mixture into your ice cream freezer.

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: Ready to Freeze

Freeze ice cream according to your machine's directions until it is thick. It will be the consistency of soft serve ice cream:

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: Freezing

For a hard set place in a container in the freezer until completely set. You can serve it in the soft serve state or frozen completely depending on your tastes. Either way you're left with a lovely ice cream with tiny bits of mint and lovely chunks of strawberry throughout.

Strawberry Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: A Bite

And that my friends is a very, very good thing.

Notes: If you can't find chocolate mint then spearmint or peppermint will work fine as long as it's fresh and not dried. Also if you don't like mint you can leave it out for a basic strawberry ice cream.

Posted by Dianne at 10:17 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 2, 2008

Spring Salad

Spring Salad

On Saturday after spending all morning at the farm festival and then all afternoon supplementing my plants for the garden I wanted something fresh for dinner. Being outside always makes me crave fresh food.

I had some seasonal sugar snap peas and strawberries and decided it would be fun to create something with those two ingredients. I just kept adding vegetables and fruit and this is what came about. I guess it's true that simple is normally best.

You could make this a side salad in a smaller portion or a meal in and of itself as I did. It's just perfect for one of those days that you just want something different, yet delicious all while being fast and easy to make. It was fresh, springy and really hit the spot!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1/2 cup of sugar snap peas in the pod, chopped
1/2 cup of strawberries, sliced or quarted
1/2 cup of green grapes
1/2 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup of cucumbers, sliced
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
The juice of one orange
1 ounce of blue cheese, crumbled

In a bowl toss together sugar snap peas through walnuts and toss to mix. Set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar and orange juice until fully incorporated. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat fully.

Sprinkle the top of the salad with crumbled blue cheese and serve.

Did I mention how easy this was? ;oP

Notes: Any vegetable/fruit combo you like will work. You could also mix and match the nuts and seeds according to taste.

Posted by Dianne at 1:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 19, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie (A Little Late): The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart (with Blueberry Sauce)!

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart with Blueberry Topping

It's not Tuesday, but it's time for a little Tuesdays with Dorie none the less! Last week the recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie was The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart and I was looking forward to trying it out and then all hell broke loose and it just didn't happen! But I promised myself (and you readers too) that I'd get back to the Tart and get back to it I did!

First of let me say Oh...My...God! This tart is heavenly! I halved the recipe and made four mini-tarts instead of one big tart, but it was divine! I also made some blueberry sauce to go along with it since lemon and blueberry are just a pair made in heaven and this tart really was heavenly....But...This is not an every day food! Talk about rich and calorie laden! It's definitely a sometimes food, but oh so lovely to enjoy when that sometimes rolls around!

Tuesdays with Dorie: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

So here is my take on The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart and as they say better late than never! ;o)

What You'll Need for the Filling: (Note: Remember I halved the recipe.)
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons (Note: I used the zest of two lemons as it's kind of hard to half three.)
4 large eggs
¾ c fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 T butter (10 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough (Note: See recipe below and I halved it too. You need to make the dough first...)

Getting ready:

Have a instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture fees tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk- you whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling- you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point- the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience- depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp may take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going- to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to bend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests, and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart: Filling

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. (the cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator)

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart: Ready for Topping

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart: Crust Up Close

What You'll Need for the Sweet Tart Dough: (Again I halved this)
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk (Note: I used the whole egg yolk as it's hard to cut one in two.)
(Note: I had to add a bit of cold water to the dough to get it to come together as well.)

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal fakes and others the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses- about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate and dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy handed- press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferable longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, against the crust. (since you froze it, you can bake it without weights). Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, carefully press it down with the back of a spoon. For partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack. To fully bake the crust, bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

Posted by Dianne at 7:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 17, 2008

Banana Bread with Toasted Pecans

Banana Bread

Right before Grant was born my sister and I were discussing banana bread as I had a ton of bananas that were past eating stage, but just right for baking banana bread. She told me about a recipe that utilized toasted pecans, but I am really a sold on my adapted version of my mom's banana bread recipe and I think it's the best banana bread I've ever had, though the idea of the toasted pecans intrigued me. So what to do? I decided to toast some pecans and add them to my base recipe and I have to admit it was really good!

This recipe is a simple, quick solution that makes use of those bananas that are past their prime. The banana gives the bread such a lovely undertone, while the toasted pecans give it just the right punch. The best part is that the recipe makes two loaves so you have one for you and one to share or you can even freeze a loaf for later!

This bread is wonderful sliced right out the oven and it's also good at room temperature. You can eat it plain, spread on a little butter or even a little peanut butter and you've got a wonderful snack or even breakfast! What's not to like?

Banana Bread

What You'll Need:
6-8 very ripe bananas
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of safflower oil or unsweetened apple sauce (Note: The apple sauce would make it healthier all while helping hold together the bread as the oil does. I make it with oil sometimes, but for the most part I utilize the apple sauce instead.)
4 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: You can use white whole wheat flour if you like. This batch was made with all purpose flour, but normally I use the white whole wheat flour instead.)
2 cups of pecans, chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of a mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat bananas until smooth.

Next add sugar, eggs, vanilla and oil or apple sauce to the bananas and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl sift or whisk together flour, sea salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix dry ingredients in with the banana mixture and stir until mixed. Set aside.

Banana Bread: Toasted Pecans

In medium sized skillet add chopped pecans and toast in a dry pan over medium heat until they turn slightly brown and you begin to smell their nutty flavor. Add nuts to the batter and stir to mix throughout.

Banana Bread: Ready for the Oven

Spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick spray and half the batter between the two pans. Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes until bread is done through. Let sit in the pans for 5-10 minutes and then turn out to cool.

Banana Bread

Makes two loaves.

Banana Bread

Notes: For an added bonus you can stir in chocolate chips or raisins or even blueberries. You could also use a different type of nut. It's all up to you and your tastes.

Posted by Dianne at 7:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 8, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

lemonpicture

It's Tuesday! So you know what that means...Tuesdays with Dorie! This week's recipe was The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart chosen by Mary of Starting From Scratch

I was really excited about this recipe and had planned to make some blueberry sauce to go with along with the tart because lemon and blueberry, well we all know how well lemons and blueberries go together, but I didn't make the tart. In short we had a very long, very draining weekend that I won't get into here, but I just couldn't make this recipe due to not being at home. I plan to make this one later when I get a chance so I'll most likely post about it when I do, but it may be in a few weeks or so when time permits.

Be sure and check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakersand see how their tarts turned out because this one looked like a real winner!

Posted by Dianne at 6:41 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 14, 2008

Pi Day: Homemade Blueberry Pie!

Pi Day: Blueberry Pie: The Inside

Today is 3/14...get it 3.14...Pi day? When I first saw this challenge over at Kitchen Parade it immediately spoke to the science geek in me! Pi...Pie...What's not to like? My mind immediately began working and I finally decided to whip up a blueberry pie because I've always wanted to make one and what better time than now? I actually made this pie a few weeks ago, but I've been dying to share it with you ever since then! ;o)

The challenge is to come up with a homemade filling WITH a homemade crust. The filling is a breeze, but homemade pie crusts can be a pain in the you know what. I ended up coming up with one of each that was delicious so I was very pleased. I'll most definitely be making this again! ;o)

Pi Day: Blueberry Pie: Vrust Pre-Baking

What You'll Need for the Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/2 sticks of cold butter, cut into chunks
1/3-1/2 cup of ice water

The most important thing to remember when making a pie crust is that your ingredients need to be cold! You also need to put the dough, once it's made, back into the fridge in a ball for at least 30 minutes, if not an hour, before you roll it out for your pie. I also like to put the pie shell back into the fridge once it's rolled out and in the dish for another 30 minutes to an hour just to ensure that it's really set.

In a food processor, or in a bowl, mix together flour, sugar and salt until blended. Using the pulse function on your food processor, or a pastry cutter in a bowl, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture turns pebbly. Slowly add the ice water until dough ball forms. (Note on Dough: Depending on humidity levels you may need some or all of the water or may even have to add a bit more. Don't panic if it doesn't come together immediately. Just stop adding water as soon as the ball forms!) (Note on Ice Water: I've had people ask me this before, so I'll address it here just in case for those of you who aren't sure. What does ice water mean? How do you measure that? You measure the amount of water called for and THEN add the ice.) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and smooth into a ball. Place in an airtight container and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

After dough has chilled return it to the floured surface and cut into two pieces, one piece being slightly larger than the other. Roll out the big piece and place into a glass pie dish. Press into place (and my crusts are always rustic because I haven't quite gotten the knack for flourishy crimps) and place back in the fridge for at least an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Remove crust from fridge and place into the oven. Bake for 7-10 minutes until crust is golden. (Note: Since you are dealing with a cold pan and placing it into a hot oven there is the off chance that your dish might break, though I've never had this happen to me. If you're worried about it then skip the second cooling stage or place the dish on a baking pan in case it does break. But like I said I do this all the time and it's never happened.) If you want you can weigh down the crust by placing aluminum foil over the crust and using pie weights or dried beans, but you don't have to. You may get a few bubbles here and there, but it won't matter in the grand scheme of things. Once the pie shell is done remove from oven and let cool completely. This yields a very tender, sweet, flaky crust.

Pi Day: Blueberry Pie: Blueberry Filling

What You'll Need for the Blueberry Filling:
6-7 cups of fresh blueberries (Note: You can use frozen blueberries IF you've frozen them yourself. Commercially frozen blueberries wouldn't work well for this recipe. I actually had some I had frozen last fall and I used those along with a few fresh berries as well.)
The zest of two lemons
The juice of two lemons
1 cup of organic cane sugar (Note: If your blueberries are really tart then add an additional 1/2 cup of sugar.)
1/2 cup of corn starch

In a large stock pot place berries, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar and cook until blueberries are tender and syrup forms. Stir in corn starch and cook until mixture thickens. (This take about 2-4 minutes...If it's thick and it hasn't been two minutes don't worry...Thick is thick so proceed to the next step!) Remove blueberries from heat as soon as the mixture thickens so you won't take the corn starch too far. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then spread into the prepared pie shell. Let the pie come to room temperature and then top with meringue.

Pi Day: Blueberry Pie: Meringue

What You'll Need for the Meringue:
8 egg whites
1/3 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a bowl of a mixer place all three ingredients and whip on high until stiff peaks form. Place egg white mixture into a pastry bag with a large tip and pipe onto the cooled pie. Once the entire pie is covered place the pie in the oven just long enough for the meringue to brown (usually no more than 3-5 minutes) and remove. Sit on counter and let cool for an hour or so. Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge for a couple of hours and serve chilled.

(Note: I had some meringue left over so I made some Meringues with what I didn't use for the pie.)

Pi Day: Blueberry Pie

Notes: The lemon zest and juice give this recipes just the right pop. Lemon compliments blueberry so well. You could also use this method with strawberries or peaches to make a different twist on the pie. If you don't want meringue you could use the left over pie crust to do a lattice on top or create shapes. You could also top this with whipped cream instead.

Pi Day: Blueberry Pie: A Few Bites In

Be sure and hop on over to Kitchen Parade and see what other pies people came up with...Because after all it is "Pi" day! ;o) And thanks to KP for hosting such a fun event!

KitchenParade_PiDay_large

Posted by Dianne at 7:21 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 13, 2008

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding

One of Jamison's all time favorites it Banana Pudding, but when he had to give up dairy due to IBS then he had to give up the pudding. Last week I decided to make him a non-dairy version, though we'll have to adapt it more now that we've found out he can't have gluten either, so the wafers will have to be changed as well, but we'll breach that another time. For now this version is what evolved.

Overall Jamison was completely surprised. He kind of got that "you did what?" look when I first told him what I'd done, but after he tasted it I won him over. It's a simple and dairy free alternative to your basic banana pudding, but you don't lose any of the flavor. That's just what you look for with this sort of thing!

What You'll Need for the Vanilla Pudding:
1 quart of Eden Blend Rice and Soy Beverage
2 vanilla beans split and scraped
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of corn starch

In a medium sized pot pour rice/soy milk. Cut and scrape two vanilla beans into the milk and then throw in the split beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes to let the vanilla seep into the milk. Pour mixture through a sieve and return strained milk, minus the split beans, to the pot. Lower the heat and return pot to the flame. In a separate bowl whisk together sugar, salt and corn starch until mixed. Add to the milk and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool pudding in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

What You'll Need for the Banana Pudding:
1 batch of Vanilla Pudding (See recipe above)
Vanilla wafer type cookies (Note: I used a light version. I'll now be looking for a gluten free version for the next time I make this for him.) Bananas

First place a layer of vanilla wafers on the bottom of a baking dish:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: First Cookie Layer

Next place a layer of bananas on top of the vanilla wafers:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: First Banana Layer

Now add the pudding:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: Pudding Layer

Since bananas have a tendency to brown after exposure to air next you want to switch the top two layers and add the bananas directly on top of the pudding:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: Second Banana Layer

Next add a final layer of vanilla wafers covering as much of the surface area of bananas as possible, blocking them from the air as much as possible:

Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding: Second Cookie Layer

Serve immediately or store in the fridge covered for up to two days.

Notes: You could use plain rice milk or plain soy milk in place of the blend, but I really like the flavor of the blend. You could also substitute 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla in place of the vanilla beans. The pudding itself is not only dairy free, it's vegan. I don't know if vanilla wafers are vegan however, though I'm sure there is a vegan equivalent out there somewhere if they aren't, and as I mentioned before I will now be searching for a gluten free version of the wafers as well for the next time I make this.

P.S. Don't forget the March edition of the Dianne's Dishes contest series for your chance to win some free herbs and spices! The contest ends today, March 13, 2008 at 5 PM EST so if you haven't entered yet then do! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake (My Mini Version!)

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Mini Version

It's Tuesday! So you know what that means...Tuesdays with Dorie! This week's recipe was Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake and it was chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits.

So it a pie or is it a cake? Yes! The dough is cake like, though the whole put together is more like that of a pie. I ended up making mini-pie-cakes so I could send them to work with Jamison, but that fell apart when the recipe only made 12. That wasn't enough to share with everyone he works with and I'm all about being fair! So I ended up freezing some of them for my sister once the baby is born, since I've been doing that lately so I'll have stuff to take to her in a few weeks after his arrival. Am I a nice sister or what? ;o)

I liked the end result of what I made, BUT I tweaked the recipe for the filling. I thought brown sugar would be better than regular sugar and I left out the raisins. I'll add my notes in the recipe below. I also thought the dough would have made some great lemon sugar cookies if you added some lemon zest and they were baked and topped with lemon icing...I may just have to test out that theory in the future! ;o)

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Dough

What You'll Need for the Dough:
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature (Note: I used salted butter. I rarely buy unsalted and never think about it most of the time until I see it in a recipe.)
1 cup sugar (Note: I used organic cane sugar.)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Apples

What You'll Need for the Apples:
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome) (Note: I used Granny Smith. I only ended up using about 5 apples and had some left over that I cooked and froze. My apples weren't overly large either.)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice (Note: I didn't add this.)
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) (Note: I didn't add these either.)
1/4 cup sugar (Note: I didn't think 1/4 a cup of sugar was enough for 10 apples. I didn't end up using 10 apples, but I did increase the sugar to 3/4 a cup. I also used natural brown sugar because I think brown sugar pairs better with apples than regular sugar. Had I used 10 apples I probably would have gone with a full cup of brown sugar.)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (Note: I used 2 teaspoons.)
Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting (Note: I used organic cane sugar for dusting.)

To Make The Dough:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Apples Sliced

To Make The Apples:
Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking sheet llined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Brown Sugar and Cinnamon

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenly across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Notes: Below is what I did to make the mini pie-cakes.

First cut a round of crust and place it into the hole of a muffin pan. Next add apples. (Note: I had to break the slices in half to get them in the muffin pan.)

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Ready to be Topped

Next cut another round, slightly smaller and place it on top of the apples, crimping around the sides and cut a couple of vents to let steam out.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Ready to Go

Next brush each top with a bit of water and sprinkle with sugar.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Ready for the Oven

Next bake for 18-25 minutes until mini-pie cakes are golden brown.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Baked

And finally enjoy the ooey gooey center! Only let them cool a bit or they'll stick when coming out and you'll end up with a mess.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake: Ooey Gooey Center

Oh the apple goodness! Until next week.

P.S. Oh and don't forget the March edition of the Dianne's Dishes contest series for your chance to win some free herbs and spices!

Posted by Dianne at 7:01 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake

Tuesday's With Dorie: Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake

Last week I found out that there was a group that was baking their way through Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home Yours and I was ready to jump on board! The group is called "Tuesday's With Dorie" and what's not to like? I immediately sent an e-mail and joined up!

This week's recipe was chosen by Jaime of Good Eats n’ Sweet Treats and is the Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake and those of you who have read Dianne's Dishes before know that cheesecake is one of my all time favorite foods ever so I was more than thrilled that this was the first recipe after joining the group and let me tell you this cheesecake did not disappoint! I actually baked the recipe in a 13 X 9 inch baking dish making cheesecake bars instead of using a springform pan as the recipe called for because it made it much easier for Jamison to take to work with him and share with his co-workers. I was a bit worried that it might not work out, but it did and the end result was delicious!

This cake utilizes actual apples, along with apple cider and the flavors meld together so well. The apples throughout the cake were also a very nice element, in both taste and overall visual appeal. This is most definitely a cheesecake I will make again! The directions below are for the springform pan, but if you want to bake it in a 13 X 9 inch dish use the same directions. I followed them to the letter just using the different pan and not using a water bath.

What You'll Need for the Crust:
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

What You'll Need for the Apples:
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths (Note: Since I made the cake in a 13 X 9 dish instead of a springform pan I cut the apples into a few more pieces so they would be throughout the dish.)
2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

What You'll Need for the Filling:
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp apple cider
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream

Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust: Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake: Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center--if the center shimmies, that's just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides.

Notes: I topped the piece of cheesecake that I ate with Apple Cider Whipped Cream. To make this add 1/4 of a cup of apple cider to 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with a few tablespoons of sugar. This cheesecake would also be very good topped with a caramel sauce.

Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids in the Kitchen!

P.S. Don't forget Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids In The Kitchen for your chance to win one Pampered Chef "My Safe Cutter" along with one Pampered Chef "Kid's Apron and Chef's Hat Set"! Just leave a comment on this thread with a valid e-mail address (and don't worry, no one will see your e-mail address but me!) before 5:00 PM EST, Thursday, February 14, 2008. I'll print out the participants and my little sous chef will pull a name out of the hat. I'll e-mail that person for their address and announce the winner on Friday, February 15, 2008! Anyone anywhere on our little planet earth is eligible to enter so what are you waiting for?

Good luck! Oh and tell your friends! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:41 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

January 21, 2008

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Yesterday morning at church they had a breakfast gathering so Jamison and I decided Blueberry Muffins would be the thing to take. These muffins are delicious, tender and the blueberries give them just the right pop and zing. They are delicious warm or cold and keep for several days. You can even freeze them for use later. They are just perfect for a breakfast treat!

What You'll Need:
3 cups of unbleached flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of organic cane sugar
3 - 6 ounce cups of fat free vanilla yogurt
1 1/4 cups of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup of buttermilk
The zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries

Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until completely incorporated. Add lemon zest yogurt, buttermilk and butter and mix until flour mixture is completely wet and mixed throughout. Fold in blueberries carefully by hand and pour into pre-greased or lined muffin pans. Batter will be very thick.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are golden.

Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing.

Makes roughly 2 1/2 dozen muffins.

Blueberry Muffins

Notes: Make sure you have blueberries throughout your dough. If you get to the bottom of the dish and it's scarce on blueberries add a few to the remaining muffins once they are in the pan so that each muffin has blueberries throughout. Also make sure that you use firm blueberries, as those that overly mushy won't work as well. You can use plain yogurt and add in a teaspoon of vanilla, but I had some vanilla yogurt that needed to be used so I chose that route instead.

Posted by Dianne at 7:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

OK, I'll be completely honest here and tell you I detest cranberries. I don't like them dried, I don't like the fresh, I don't like them frozen, I don't like them baked into things, I just plain out do not like them, though I've tried them many ways! My sister however adores them and since I in turn adore her I tolerate them on Thanksgiving and Christmas and whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce because my inner chef can't stand the thought of the glop out of the can! ;o)

Originally I saw something similar to this a few years ago on FoodTV, but I don't recall which of their chefs was making it, though I do remember their variation had tarragon in it and I remember thinking "Tarragon and cranberries? Seriously?!!?!" So I took their basic idea and very soon I had deviated from it rather quickly. Surprisingly this isn't half bad and even I, Ms. Cranberries Suck Monumentally, will even eat a bite or two, though it is by no means my favorite Thanksgiving treat and I'll go for sweet potatoes or something pumpkin related over this 9.9 times out of 10, but if I have to eat a cranberry this is how I'd eat one! My sister says it's even good frozen right out of the freezer, but I, and you in turn, will have to take her word for that, though she's an honest girl so I'm sure she knows exactly of which she speaks! ;o)

Anyway now that I'm through picking on my sister...So all you cranberry lovers out there this one is for you. Cranberry Sauce is one of those quintessential dishes that automatically makes you think of Thanksgiving! This version is quick, easy and delicious...If you like cranberries that is, which I mentioned I don't! ;o)

What You'll Need:
3 pints (or roughly 6 cups) of fresh cranberries
The zest of two oranges
The juice of two oranges (Note: This is normally roughly 3/4 to 1 cup of orange juice. It doesn't have to be perfect. The recipe is very versatile.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar

Cranberry Sauce Cooking

Dump ingredients into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until cranberries pop (and yes sometimes you can even hear them do just that!) and begin to break down. The mixture will also turn very jelly like.

Chill and serve OR you can freeze the mixture for up to 6 weeks. Take from the freezer and thaw before serving OR if you're like my sister you can just eat it frozen! (She knows that by the way because I send the leftovers home with her and she freezes them! ;o))

Notes: If you end up with oranges that don't have much juice in them, just make up for it by using any unsweetened orange juice out of the fridge. Any type of orange will work. Just get whatever is convenient for you.

Posted by Dianne at 2:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 1, 2007

Cooked Apples

Cooked Apples

It's not too late in the season to find amazing apples! Cooked apples is another way of having apple sauce, while still letting them retain some of their shape. You can also use these to make Apple Walnuts muffins, which I'm sure you'll see here on Dianne's Dishes another time. What's better than a dish you can use to make two different things?

What You'll Need:
4-6 apples, cored and chopped
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon

In a large pot cook apples with maple syrup and cinnamon until tender and the mixture is thick. This usually takes 1-2 hours depending on how big the apples are. Serve warm or cool.

Cooked Apples

Notes: This is good alone, but it also great mixed into oatmeal with a few raisins and/or nuts. You can use natural brown sugar and/or honey instead of maple syrup. You could even use molasses, but to be perfectly honest I'm not a big fan and prefer other natural sweeteners over molasses any day. The only place I really utilize molasses in my kitchen is in gingerbread cookies and now I'm off on a tangent best discussed closer to Christmas! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2007

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

It's pear season! You've got to love Fall! Goat cheese and honey, meld together with the pears to makes a scrumptious taste combination. This is a simple, quick, delicious dessert that you'll love!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1/2 a pear with the core scooped out
1-2 tablespoons of goat cheese
Honey

Preheat oven to 375 F.

First you want to scoop out the core of the pear:

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

Next stuff the center with goat cheese:

Baked Pears with Goat Cheese and Honey

Bake for 10-15 minutes until pear is soft and goat cheese is slightly golden.

Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

Notes: If you want to you could use blue cheese instead of goat cheese, but I'd omit the honey. Chopped pecans or walnuts would also be a good addition to sprinkle on top before baking.

Posted by Dianne at 9:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 17, 2007

Pomegranates

It's finally that time of year again...Pomegranate season!

Pomegranates

Alexis and I picked up a couple of the lovely bundles the other day when we were at the store and we brought them home and immediately cracked one open and pulled out all the little gems! Alexis was mostly eating them as we went, while I was placing some in a jar for later, but that's how things go around here. ;o)

For the most part Alexis and I just eat them for breakfast or snacks and sometimes I even toss them in some yogurt alone or along with other fruit, but I started thinking about cooking with them and wondered if anyone out there in cyberland had ever done just that. I've seen them tossed into salads and things of that nature, or made into dressings, but can you bake with them? Or any other tips and hints I might want to try?

Pomegranate

For now the lovely little Pomegranate yummies are stowed in the fridge in a glass jar from which we snack, but I want to do something more. So tell me people...What do you like to do with your Pomegranates?

Posted by Dianne at 7:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2007

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

I'm a big fan of both avocados and grapefruit and lately I've seen them paired together quite often. I decided to throw together a little salad and see what the taste combination was like. I must say I really like the combination! It's simple, healthy and a quick fix for lunch or a light dinner. If you like avocado and grapefruit, you'll love this!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 avocado
1/2 a large red grapefruit
Avocado oil (Note: If you can't find avocado oil then extra virgin olive oil will work fine.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt

Slice avocado and grapefruit into wedges and arrange in a fan pattern around a plate. Drizzle with some avocado oil, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt. Serve immediately.

Notes: Due to the avocado this salad is an eat it when you make it kind of deal. If you try to store it the avocado will turn brown and mushy. I wouldn't make it more than 30 minutes before you plan to serve.

Posted by Dianne at 9:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 18, 2007

Blueberry Ice Cream

Blueberry Ice Cream

My Mom and Daddy were visting this week from Tennessee and my father is a big snacker. He's also a big ice cream eater, so I thought it would be nice to whip up a batch. I had a bunch of blueberries in the freezer that I had frozen over the past few months and thought it would be fun to put them to use in Blueberry Ice Cream! I had never had this before, but what I came up with was really wonderful! Alexis really loved it and my Mom and Daddy seemed to like it too. I certainly loved it! It has a wonderful blueberry flavor that is a refreshing change from standard ice cream. Sometimes it's nice to mix things up!

What You'll Need:
4 cups of blueberries (Note: I had frozen the blueberries, but fresh blueberries will work just as well. You're looking for big, normal sized blueberries, not those tiny frozen ones that you find in the freezer section.)
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1 pint of half and half
1 quart of heaving cream
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 cup of organic cane sugar

In a medium sized pan cook blueberries, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water until sauce forms. (Note: You can cook it further until the blueberries break down or let them retain their shape. I chose to let them retain their shape so that there were lovely bits of frozen blueberries that popped in your mouth when you ate the ice cream. It's a matter of personal choice.) Remove from heat and let cool completely before using in ice cream mixture. The easiest way to accomplish this is to put them in the fridge.

Mix cooled blueberry mixture, half and half, heavy cream, condensed milk, evaporated milk and sugar and stir to mix. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine's directions. Serve immediately for soft serve ice cream or place in the freezer to let it set up to a harder state.

Blueberry Ice Cream

Note: I really loved the color this ice cream turned out to be! I used a large ice cream maker for this recipe. You can substitute any fruit you like for the blueberries. Strawberries are a personal favorite and peaches as well. You could even do a mix and make things really interesting!

Posted by Dianne at 9:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 8, 2007

Easy Fruit Salad

Easy Fruit Salad

This truly is a very simple recipe and it gets raves whenever I make it. Mix and match the fruits or even add some seeds and/or nuts. There are infinite possibilities!

What You'll Need:
1 pint of blueberries, picked over for stems
1 pint of strawberries, capped and sliced
4 peaches, pitted and chopped
2-3 cups of grapes, sliced
1/3 cup of fresh lime juice

Mix together sliced and chopped fruit. Pour lime juice over fruit and toss to coat. Chill for at least 30 minutes and then serve.

Quick, easy and delicious!

Notes: As I mentioned above other fruits are great too. Watermelon, pineapple, apple and banana are often additions when I make this dish. It makes a wonderful breakfast. You can even use it as a topping for plain yogurt. If you want you can serve this salad with a little angel food cake and whipped cream for a dessert. The best part is it's so simple to make, but people love it just the same!

Posted by Dianne at 8:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

Lemonade

Lemonade

What's better than a nice, big, cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day? The two go hand in hand!

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups of water
9-10 lemons, juiced
More water to fill the pitcher

Heat sugar and 1 1/2 cups of water over medium heat until sugar dissolves and syrup forms. Remove from heat and let cool. In a gallon pitcher add lemon juice to cooled simple syrup and stir to mix. Fill up the rest of the pitcher with water and viola...Lemonade! Pour over ice and garnish with a lemon round if desired.

Notes: You can add in some lime juice instead of lemon for Limemade. You could also add in any other fruit juice you wanted for a lemonade combo deal (Watermelon Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, etc.)

Posted by Dianne at 2:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 6, 2007

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

This recipe is quick and easy! It's a great way to get rid of those bananas that are bit too ripe! Who doesn't have a few of those lying around? ;o)

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup of safflower oil or unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup of organic cane sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans (or nuts of your choice), optional
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Beat together bananas, sugar, eggs and apple sauce. Add remaining ingredients, except flour and mix well. Stir in flour until just incorporated.

Pour batter into a loaf pan or muffin pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake loaf for 1 hour or until loaf sticks done. Bake muffins for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 1 loaf or about 24 muffins.

Banana Bread

Notes: You can add a cup of raisins or chocolate chips to mix it up a bit. As stated in the recipe any type of nut will work as well. Blueberries would make a nice addition or peaches, for a multifruit loaf. As always play around with it...You never know what you might come up with! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 10:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 4, 2007

4th of July Food Fun: Red, White and Blue "Shortcake"

Red, White and Blue "Shortcake"

I use the term "shortcake" here loosely at best, thus the quotes. The topping is constructed more like Baklava, though in truth I've never had, nor made Baklava. This is also my first time using phyllo dough. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but it was a bit of a learning curve! I will be using it again in the future. I have a lot of yummy ideas as to what can be done with phyllo so look for it again in the future! ;o) Regardless this fun little dessert, is delicious and is fun in the 4th of July holiday sense. Try it and see!

What You'll Need:
1 package of phyllo dough, thawed
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 large star cookie cutter or 1 large star shape cut from aluminum foil and a very sharp knife
1 package of strawberries, sliced
1 package of blueberries
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
Whipped cream

For The Star "Shortcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Lay one layer of phyllo dough flat on a big piece of aluminum foil. Brush entire surface with melted butter and then sprinkle surface with sugar. Add another layer of phyllo dough and place it over the first layer, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat these steps until you run out of butter and sugar. (Note: Your top layer should be buttered and sugared as well. You may have some left of phyllo dough, but it can be refrozen according to the package.)

Using your cookie cutter or star shape and sharp knife cut out star shapes and place the stars on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake stars for 5-10 minutes or until golden browned. Keep an eye on them as they can go from a lovely golden brown to burned in about 2 seconds flat! Remove stars from the oven and let cool completely. (Note: You could easily do this the night before. Also the scraps from the stars can be cooked and eaten too. ;o))

For The Berry Mixture:

In a large bowl mix berries and sugar. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour or until syrup forms.

To Assembled the Dessert:

Layer berries onto a small dessert plate, top with a "Shortcake" Star and a dollop of freshly made whipped cream.

Notes: Again raspberries could be used as they are red too, but if you've read Dianne's Dishes for a while you know my opinion of those! ;o) You could also add a layer of Sabayon or custard on top of the berries and beneath the star, which I think I'm going to try next time. And if you'd like to make it on another occasion any summer fruit would be great! Peaches come to mind immediately. It's an easy recipe to mix up!

Posted by Dianne at 3:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

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.

Posted by Dianne at 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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

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

May 30, 2007

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

There is nothing better than a smoothie made with fresh, ripe fruit! The choice of the fruit is up to you...Banana strike your fancy? Then go for it! Strawberry? Absolutely! Papaya? That's always good? Blueberry? It'll be purple, but delicious! Mango? Surely! Well, you see where this is going. Anything you like, toss it in, you can't go wrong with a fresh, yummy smoothie!

What You'll Need:
1 large banana, sliced and/or frozen
3 large strawberries, sliced and/or frozen
1 small very ripe peach, sliced and or frozen
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
1 cup of soymilk (Note: You can use any kind of milk you like, but I like to use soymilk in my smoothies, I think it tastes better.)
1 cup of ice (optional)

Place all ingredients in the jar of your blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

How's that for a fast, easy and not to mention a portable breakfast? And don't forget you can use different fruits or even just add more to this basic smoothie. There is no wrong answer. ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 9:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack