Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

I am trying to convince myself that there are really only 5 work days that stand between another weekend.  For some reason, I know that doesn’t mean anything.  These days the weekend doesn’t mean no work – it just means that I am not at work, and I guess if I think back to 16 years ago, before I had a laptop, when I had work to do – I actually had to drive to work.  It was a different world back then.  In a way, even though work never stops anymore, at least I am not wasting hours away sitting in the car.

When I think back to those times, I remember what I used to do about meal planning.  This was before kids – and my husband worked just as much as I did.  We would usually make it home around 8pm most nights, sometimes even later – and at that time, I couldn’t start making dinner from scratch. So – Sundays was my “cooking day.”  I would make 2-3 meals that I could put in the refrigerator and just stick in the oven when I got home.  In about 30 minutes, I would have a delicious meal for us – while I was sitting on the coach watching TV.  It was awesome.  This was also before the Big Green Egg.  We ate a lot of one dish meals back then – and we loved them.  I would usually make one casserole with rice, and one with pasta.  If I had enough time, I would also make a hearty soup.  When we ran out of the meals I had prepared, then we would order take out…but some weeks we had plenty to last until the weekend.

One of the dishes I used to make was a chicken-noodle casserole.  Each week it was slightly different – but always healthy, and always with fresh vegetables.  When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - it reminded me of those days.  Now I am just too busy on the weekends to prepare meals for the week – and my husband actually does it for me – he will smoke up some extra chicken breasts or pork, that I will use in my recipes during the week.  It is definitely a huge time saver.

This mac-n-cheese was a huge hit – and it covered all the food groups.  For less than 400 calories a serving, you cannot go wrong.  And hey, it was awesome warmed up the next day.  So – even if you don’t have your act together to make your meals ahead of time – this one will feed a crowd…so enjoy the leftovers – particularly when it is warming up in the oven, and you are sitting on the couch recovering from the day, instead of slaving over a hot stove…

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces uncooked large or regular elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 3 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)

Preparation

Preheat broiler to high.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add broccoli to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add chicken to drippings in pan; cook 4 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with turmeric; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Combine remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, milk, stock, and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add pasta mixture and 2 ounces cheese; toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 3 ounces cheese and bacon. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and just begins to brown.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

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Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-free cookies.  Right away there is a strike against the cookies when those words are involved.  I hate to admit that, because I am all for people being gluten-free, but there are some things that just need gluten to taste delicious, and in my opinion, cookies are one of them.  I thought I had made the one and only delicious gluten-free cookie already, and that there would be no others that could even compare.  Boy was I wrong, just WRONG.

I am sure someone has already thought of this – but one of the reasons why gluten-free cookies scare me is because there is notoriously some special ingredient or flour (made without gluten) that you have to use.  I walk down the baking isle in our market, and I see all those special flours – there are tons of them, but they don’t exist in my house.  That means I would actually have to plan to make them and buy the ingredients in the house, which would also require me to plan.  Seriously – do you know my life these days?  Planning is just not part of the routine.  “Just in time” is my new mantra. So back to where I started this paragraph – I am sure someone has thought of a gluten-free cookbook, where you use only regular ingredients.  Because seriously – you can make a delicious gluten-free meal without even thinking about it – we had one tonight.  Just fresh vegetables, some nice potatoes, and delicious meat smoked on the egg.  Magic.  No tapioca flour, sorghum, or arrowroot starch.

So, when I saw the title of these cookies in Cooking Light, I almost turned the page – but then my eyes wandered to the ingredients, and I couldn’t believe it.  Just like those chocolate brownie cookies, these also just used regular ingredients.  I thought it was too good to be true.  Well, that’s exactly what these cookies were.  You seriously would never know they lacked flour.  They were soft and chewy, yet crunchy on the outside.  I washed them down with some chocolate milk, and it was like eating a Reese Peanut Butter Cup – except a delicious one, since they are way too sweet for me.

I think the tides may be changing, and I may start taking that strike away when I see the words gluten-free.  Or maybe I should just write my own cookbook – gluten-free baking without the fancy ingredients.  Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. I will put that on my list…let’s see, number 1,729.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup reduced-fat chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate minichips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place salt and egg white in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until white is frothy. Add peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

Divide dough into 20 equal portions (about 1 tablespoon each); arrange dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork; press the top of each cookie again to form a crisscross pattern, and flatten to a 2-inch diameter. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins

Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins

I know I have said this before, but food has magical powers – that is until there is a force that breaks those powers.  I haven’t seen it happen very often, but it does.  Why is it so important when you go to a all day meeting that there is good food to eat?  That’s because often, it puts you in a better mood.  You come back from lunch refreshed and ready to tackle anything – only then to look forward to snack time.

Normally my meetings have nothing to do with food – which is why it is such a treat every year to attend the Food Blogger’s conference.  Not only do you talk about food, listen to other people lecture about food – there is food EVERYWHERE.  It is quite something.  This year things were just a little different though.  The conference started on a Friday night – with a wonderful reception and the gift suite.  I brought home lots of great stuff to share with the family – snacks and treats galore – but I wasn’t staying at the hotel.  The next day they started us out with breakfast sponsored by Noosa Yoghurt.  Now, if you haven’t had Noosa Yoghurt yet, you are truly missing out.  I have been eating it for months now, and it is leaps and bounds better than any yoghurt I have ever had in the United States – it is closer to the wonderful yoghurt I can find in Europe.  So, needless to say, I was in my glory.  They had tons of toppings out for us so I went to town – and that pumpkin yogurt was just like eating pumpkin pie filling.  I was ready to sit and listen to people talk about food for hours.

After a few hours of that, I was actually hungry again – and I forgot to bring the snacks with me from the night before.  I was with hundreds of foodies – was I the only one that was hungry?  There was 4 hours in between breakfast and lunch, and I hate to say it, but that is just too long for me to wait.  I eat every couple of hours.  It is the only way for me to stay sane during the day.  Well, fortunately I ran out and bought myself a snack to keep me going, but I was definitely surprised by the whole thing.  I have to admit, that was the only part of the weekend that I was hungry in the least bit.  The rest of the weekend they kept the food coming.  Let me remind you how hard it is to watch a food demo when you are hungry…

That brings me back to these muffins.  My daughter loves muffins in the morning because they are quick and easy.  I have a different rational.  I can eat a couple of hard boiled eggs for my first breakfast, then have a muffin for my mid-morning snack.  Boy is life good when that happens.  Magic.  Fortunately for me, my daughter’s did not like these muffins from Cooking Light – but my husband and I LOVED them – they were mildly sweet with a touch of bacon on top.  OMG.  And I used margarine instead of butter, so they were dairy-free.  Now, if only I could just snap my hands and make those muffins appear…now that would be magic.

Ingredients

Streusel:

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 applewood-smoked bacon slices
  • 3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Muffin:

  • 7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup Guinness Stout or other stout beer
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil; place a wire rack on the baking sheet.

To prepare streusel, combine 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons water, and pepper in a small bowl. Spread mixture evenly over both sides of bacon. Place coated bacon on rack; bake for 18 minutes or until done. Cool; finely chop.

Combine oats and 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl. Stir in butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped bacon; reserve remaining bacon. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

To prepare muffins, weigh or lightly spoon 7.9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 7.9 ounces flour, remaining bacon, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; stir well. Combine beer, oil, vanilla, and egg in another bowl, gently stirring with a whisk. Add beer mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Evenly divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle streusel evenly over batter.

Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pan; serve warm, or cool completely on a wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

My husband and I have a deal when it comes to the kitchen.  We have a completely fish-free kitchen, and I promise not to use vinegar unless it is balsamic.  For some reason balsamic vinegar is not nearly as offensive to him.  Now there are problems with both of those…I love a good pickle, and he LOVES just about anything from the sea.  So, we try and go out to eat once a week so he can get his fill of seafood, and I try only to make pickles when I can open all of the windows and he is going to be out of the house for at least a few hours.  I haven’t tried to make pickles out of balsamic vinegar, but that just doesn’t sound appealing to me at all.

I love a good pickle, and I have been eyeing those pickle recipes from Cooking Light for a long time – waiting for just the right time to completely fill the house with that wonderful smell of vinegar.  Ok, I have to admit, even I don’t exactly love the smell of white vinegar, but if I know what is coming in the end, I am all for it.  For many years I only liked the half-sour, or dill pickles.  Bread and butter pickles were just too sweet for me.  Even today, I would never buy a container of bread and butter pickles to eat, but for some reason this recipe was calling me.  Everything about it appealed to me – the onions, the turmeric, the celery seeds – I just had to try them for myself.

They were every bit as wonderful as I had hoped they were be.  I just love seeing them in my pantry – knowing that I still have another jar to go.  They were the best bread and butter pickles ever…and maybe it was because I made them – or maybe my tastes are changing, and I am expanding my pickle pallet.  Either way, you need to get your hands on some end of the season cucumbers before they are all gone.  Maybe I can even convince my husband to leave the house for a few hours next weekend so I can make another batch…

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 5 pounds pickling cucumbers, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons turmeric

Preparation

Combine 8 cups water and salt in a large container, stirring with a whisk.  Add onion and cucumber; let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.  Drain; rinse cucumbers under cold water and drain.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add cucumber mixture; return just to a boil.

Using a slotted spoon, divide the hot cucumber mixture among 6 1-pint hot sterilized jars.  Divide hot vinegar mixture among jars, filling to 1/2-inch from top.  Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims.  Cover with metal lids; screw on bands.

Process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove jars from water bath.  Cool completely; check for proper seal.  For best flavor allow 2 weeks before eating.  Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Bread and Butter Pickles

Chicken Salad with Fennel and Dill

Chicken Salad

Is it Friday yet?  Oh my, it is not a good sign that I am already thinking that, and we are not even at Monday.  My life has been one big hurricane lately – but I haven’t yet reached the eye of the storm.  I am really hoping it comes soon before I completely fall apart.  I am definitely overextended at the moment – at work and at home, and last week just about did me in.  I figured if I didn’t post something tonight, I might never get to it…so here we go.

On top of everything going on right now, this weekend was the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle.  Lucky for me, there was no travelling involved – I just had to get myself out of my office on Friday and downtown for the kick-off event.  Even that was difficult – but I managed to get down there.  And I am really glad I did.  The conference was terrific, with lots product samples to try – that hopefully I can play with when things calm down a little.

I must say, I was not in the mood to socialize this weekend, and I think people could actually sense that.  I didn’t have a lot of people come up to me (was it the scowl on my face that gave that away?) and want to chat – but I did happen to meet a few people that really took me out of my shell, and to the Foodland that I long to be in.  At lunch on Saturday I chose a person with just one other person sitting – who happened to go to college with a couple of others who were at the conference, and they joined her – Adam and Lyndsay from NYC, who worked for Peanut Butter & Co.  They were awesome.  There was no break in the conversation, and they really put a smile on my face.  As well as showering me with packets of their delicious peanut butter – which my daughter basically inhaled today.  I think they have their latest Super Fan in the making.

Later that evening, as we were waiting for the Food Fair to begin, I met two others from NYC – these wonderful ladies named Christina and Alycia.  They have a fantastic blog called Feel Good Foodies - all about their food adventures in NYC and beyond.  It was really fun to look through their site today.  I felt like they were long lost friends, we had so much to talk about – of course everything tying back to food.

Which reminds me – this chicken salad.  Recently I have had to join the ranks of many who have trouble digesting lactose.  Of course those tiny Lactaid tablets work perfectly – but what a pain in the neck.  One of the products I sampled this weekend was the lactose-free Green Valley Organics sour cream.  Oh my gosh.  Wow.  I swear I could have just gotten a spoon and gone to town – good thing they just gave us a little taste.  It was so creamy and delicious, and wonderfully rich.  I can’t wait to try it in this chicken salad with fennel – which was outstanding.  Just the perfect end of summer dinner.

I have lots more to share about the conference, but this is a good start.  Now excuse me as I prepare to blow away…hurricane style.

Ingredients

  • 4 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast (12-14 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°. Place chicken on a small rimmed baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons oil; season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and cooked through, 25-30 minutes. Let cool, then shred into bite-size pieces.

Toss in a large bowl with fennel, scallion, dill, vinegar, chicken, sour cream, mayonnaise and lemon juice; season with kosher salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.

Do ahead: Chicken can be cooked 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Shred just before using.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chicken Salad with Fennel and Dill

Blueberry Hand Pies

Blueberry Hand Pies

I am trying to soak up the last bit of summer, although to let you in on a little secret – I am really looking forward to fall.  Of course I can never get enough of those delicious Washington berries, and it makes me sad that my local fruit hut has already closed for the season – but fortunately there were still some stands at the farmer’s market selling blueberries and raspberries, so I snatched up a flat.  But I am looking forward to all of my fall favorites with apples and pears – and hopefully our fall will be as nice as our summer was – boy are we getting spoiled.

I actually can’t believe that an entire year has gone by since the International Food Blogger’s Conference – yes, it is that time of year – and I can’t wait.  Last year it was at a smaller venue so they had to limit attendance.  This year it looks like there are more than double the number of people attending – Seattle watch out.  I hope all the restaurants and bakeries in the area are ready for rush of people they will get next weekend – that is if there is any room in their stomachs after all the food sampling at the conference.  Last year I really got to try some amazing products – I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for us this year.

Summer would not be complete unless I made some type of hand pie.  This year I decided on blueberry, after seeing this recipe in Bon Appetit.  I made a few adjustments to the recipe (using the end of a fork to seal the ends together, and adding cinnamon), but other than that, this recipe was perfect.  The flakey crust was crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and just buttery good.  They were even better when we had them right out of the oven, although we did not turn them away the next day, completely at room temperature.

So hopefully I will see some of you at the conference next week – I am not the most social or gregarious food blogger, so these things are not easy for me – but last year I met some really wonderful people.  I think it says a lot that I signed up again.  See you soon!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preparation

Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter; pulse until the texture of very coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup ice water; pulse, adding more water if dry, until dough comes together in clumps. Form into a square, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

DO AHEAD: Crust can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 375°.Roll out dough on a floured surface to a 15×12-inch rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.

Toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Brush edges of rectangles with water; mound some blueberries in center of each. Fold dough over, and press edges to seal. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits in tops.

Bake hand pies, rotating sheet halfway through, until juices are bubbling and pastry is golden brown, 35–40 minutes (juices will run onto parchment). Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Hand Pies

Corn, Squash, and Green Onion Flatbreads

 

Corn, Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

Less is more.  I keep trying to remind myself of that – although it is truly not the motto that normally I would quote.  Normally what goes through my mind comes from a very wise man in my life – my father-in-law – if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over doing…  Yes, unfortunately those are usually the words that describe my crazy life.  What can’t I just adopt less is more?  Maybe then I wouldn’t be so ridiculously exhausted.

It’s funny – eating is probably the only place in my life where that cute little three word saying makes absolute sense.  I have always subscribed to the everything in moderation theory.  I have never dieted in my life – I eat healthy, and I eat everything in moderation.  A little of this, a little of that – and I never deprive myself.  It seems to work for me, but I also exercise – I love being active, and then if I want to eat something, I do it – I just don’t overdo it.  I save that for everything in my life besides eating.

The other month I found this recipe in Cooking Light – it looked so fresh and simple, and it was on a piece of…wait for it…YES…NAAN!!!  I was immediately intrigued.  It seemed so obvious and simple, yet I never thought of it myself.  Isn’t that always the way?  Now that zucchini is in abundance, and fresh corn is easy to come by, I gave it a try.  It was super easy to make, and seriously, it was amazing.  My older daughter loved it almost as much as I did.  It really was the perfect lunch.  And look at it – with just a handful of ingredients – less really is more.  Less time, more substance.  What could be better?  I’ll tell you – if I could just adopt that technique everywhere.

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (8.8-ounce) package whole-wheat tandoori naan bread
  • 8 green onions, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (7-ounce) yellow squash, thinly sliced (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2.5 ounces vegetarian part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 ounces vegetarian fontina cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Preparation

Place rack in upper third of oven. Preheat to 400°.

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add naan; grill 1 minute on each side or until grill marks appear. Place naan on a baking sheet. Add onions to pan; grill 2 minutes, turning once.

Rub cut sides of garlic over top side of naan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Layer squash over naan, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle corn over squash; top with onions. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt; top with cheeses. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes. Turn broiler on (do not remove flatbreads from oven); broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and thyme. Cut each flatbread into 4 pieces.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Corn, Squash, and Green Onion Flatbreads

Watermelon Refresco

Watermelon Refresco

I can’t believe summer is over, and school is starting this week.  My older daughter seems to be holding it together quite well right now – I hope it can last.  I know the first day is going to be tough when she shows up at the new school and it really hits everyone that they have been split-up.  Hopefully it is just for two years, and that she will get to reunite with all her friends in high school.  At least we can always hope.

As I mentioned before, I am pretty behind on my postings.  This summer was much busier than I could have ever expected, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon.  At least I was able to take a little break from work and spend some quality time with my family.  It is not often that I am back east when I need to be, but fortunately this time I was.  We will all miss my uncle tremendously.

It wouldn’t be summer without watermelon, and this year I found a new favorite drink thanks to Cooking Light.  I made two versions – one for the kids, and one for the adults – and it was a crowd pleaser for everyone.  And did you see that color?  I am feeling refreshed just looking at it.

Teddy always did love a good drink as he would sit on my mother’s porch overlooking the water.  So Teddy – this one’s for you…cheers.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups chopped seeded watermelon
  • 3/4 cup tequila (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur) (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups club soda, chilled
  • 6 lime wedges

Preparation

Place watermelon in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed watermelon into a sieve over a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Combine 3 cups watermelon juice, tequila (for adults only), Triple Sec (for adults only), lime juice, and salt in a pitcher; stir with a whisk. Gently stir in club soda. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Watermelon Refresco

Cherry Butter

Cherry Butter

I can’t believe summer is almost over…and I have just begun to post all of the wonderful things I made.  Unfortunately this was one of the busiest summers I have had as long as I can remember.  That doesn’t mean that I stopped cooking or baking, but I definitely was not able to keep up on my postings.  So, hang with me…the next few posts will be very focused on summer produce as I catch myself up.

This year we had another killer cherry season.  We had more cherries on our tree than I have ever experienced.  And the odd thing was, the birds were a little late to the party.  We were actually able to pick about 5 pounds worth before the birds got to them.  We also had some other fun visitors this year – the rats.  I think there was just one, and boy was he happy.  I think our neighbors finally had their fill though and I haven’t seen the rat for a while.

So this year I wanted to make jam with them – but that was before I found this Cherry Butter recipe in the Food in Jars cookbook.  Once I saw this, I looked no further.  I just loved the idea of making butter out of these amazing cherries, and as you can see, it was very much like jam consistency, without the pectin.  I can’t tell you the pride I had when I had jars of this cherry butter on the counter.  It is not often that I am able to can my own produce – normally it is from the farmer’s market.  I was beaming.

So even though cherry season may be over where you live – I leave you with this fantastic recipe for next year.  And if you want to come by my house and pick your own…feel free.  There should be plenty, if this year is any indication.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups pitted and chopped sweet cherries (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Preparation

Combine the cherries and 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a large pot and bring to a summer.  Reduce the heat to low and let it gently bubble, stirring every 5 minutes or so.  If it’s sticking to the bottom, lower the heat a bit more.  Cook like this to at least an hour, until the butter has reduced in volume and it has taken on a deep wine color.

Using an immersion blender (or working in batches in a blender), carefully puree the fruit.  Taste and add the remaining sugar if you feel it needs it.  Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.  If it doesn’t seem at all watery and the texture seems sufficiently  thick, the butter is done.  If not, continue to cook until the butter is thick and spreadable, keeping in mind that it will thicken a bit more as it cools.

When the butter is nearing completion, fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

When it has reached a consistency that is thick and spreadable, ladle the butter into the prepared jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 15 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months

Makes 2 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cherry Butter

Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Bars

Today is my Aunt’s birthday – she would have been 63 years old today.  My family is full of bakers – in every generation.  Bonnie was not really known as a baker, although she will always go down in history for winning the brownie bake-off two years in a row.  Unfortunately I had already moved to the west coast at this point, and I wasn’t able to participate in the fun – but my family took this competition very seriously.  This was not an easy contest to win, and I remember talking to her after she won – I could see her beaming all the way on the other side of the country.

As if it was bad enough to lose Bonnie, now my Uncle is sick.  Fortunately he has a ravenous appetite, which in our family is a really good thing.  My mother went to visit him today with a pile of chocolate chip cookies – she said he ate a few, and then hid the rest from all his visitors.  I laughed – since at this point, I think that is completely appropriate.

I couldn’t go tomorrow empty handed, so I thought long and hard about what I wanted to make him.  I wanted to make brownies, but I thought that something a little different was in order – peanut butter.  Who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter?  I remembered this recipe that my friend Kirsty posted – and I thought they would be perfect.  I adapted the recipe slightly below – and the sample bite I had today was exactly what I was looking for.  A nice peanut butter flavor with a chocolate chip in every bite.  They might not be Bonnie’s winning recipe, but they were made with love.  Just like hers.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (milk chocolate or dark chocolate)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9‐in x 13‐in baking dish and set aside. Beat the butter and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar; mix well. Next add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Finally mix in the vanilla. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly incorporate the flour into the peanut butter mixture. Next stir in the chocolate chips. Then spread the batter into the greased baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or un􀆟l lightly browned. Cool, slice and serve.

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