Layered Strawberry-Coconut Panna Cotta

Layered Strawberry-Coconut Panna Cotta

It is not often that I am banned from the kitchen – ok, maybe not banned, but it sure feels that way – when I can’t use the stove or the oven, I might as well be banned.  Not only is it hot in Seattle right now, it is humid as well – and without air conditioning, we go to drastic measures to ensure the house stays as cool as we can possibly make it.  For the most part we play the “shade game” - for those of you who have not had the luxury of playing that game – it is awesome.  You basically figure out which windows need to be closed with the shades drawn and which need to be open, at all times of the day, based upon where the sun is.  Fortunately today at the end of the day the clouds came in, and I quickly ran around the house opening every shade and every window I could.  When that hot breeze comes through the window ever so slightly – you actually feel like you have accomplished something.  That’s when you get a point.  What a fun game…too bad I have to go to the office tomorrow.

I saw this dessert in Cooking Light, and it almost passed the test to make today.  Fortunately I had made it last weekend though, so there was no temptation for me.  Seriously, I made a fancy lemonade for the girls today, as that was all my creativity could come up with.  Yes, can you tell I am preoccupied with other things?  So back to this dessert.  Strawberry season is just wrapping up here, so I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to put this one off.  Unfortunately I missed out on getting the real fresh strawberries from the stand, but I still found some at the market – and this dessert is so good, any strawberries will do.

I adapted the recipe so that it was completely dairy-free, and it was amazing.  First of all, it is definitely impressive to look at – but the taste – it was like summer in a glass.  Be patient with the layers, it took them a lot longer to set up than the recipe said – but they eventually solidified.  My favorite layer was the coconut – but that strawberry layer on the bottom was incredible as well – real strawberry jello, now when do you ever make that?  Ok, and the thyme on top – don’t skip that step, it really added a unique flavor.

Maybe there should be a bonus round for my shade game.  If you can create a dessert that doesn’t use the oven or the stove, you get an extra 100 points.  Well, actually – even better - you get dessert!

Ingredients

Strawberry gelatin:

  • 1 teaspoon gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup sliced strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup coconut water

Panna cotta:

  • 3/4 teaspoon gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Strawberries:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation

To prepare strawberry gelatin, sprinkle 1 teaspoon gelatin over 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Combine 3/4 cup strawberries, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon juice in a small saucepan; let stand 5 minutes. Mash mixture with a fork or potato masher. Place pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add coconut water; return to a simmer. Remove pan from heat. Add gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Divide strawberry mixture evenly among 4 wineglasses. Chill 1 hour or until set.

To prepare panna cotta, sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon gelatin over 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Combine coconut milks, 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon juice in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Remove pan from heat. Add gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Cool to room temperature. Carefully pour one-fourth of coconut milk mixture on top of each strawberry gelatin. Chill 1 hour or until set.

To prepare strawberries, combine remaining ingredients in a bowl; toss gently. Let stand 5 minutes. Divide strawberry mixture evenly among glasses.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Layered Strawberry-Coconut Panna Cotta

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Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Everyone needs a break now and then.  I am not just talking about a small 15-minute walk around the block brake, I am talking about a break from life. Ok, yes, those 15-minute walks are important – after what I experienced this week, sometimes you just need to get a little air.  The problem is that you have to come to that conclusion yourself – no one can tell you that it has to be done.  But believe me, it is amazing what it can do for you…

To say that things are hectic right now is an understatement.  Thursday was the last day of school for the year, although this year it was a little bittersweet.  For my younger daughter, it was a big party – but for my older daughter it was not the usual feeling.  Unfortunately I had an all-day meeting, and was extremely preoccupied – all my brain cells were focused at the time.  That was until I got the text.  The last day was fun, except for the end – everyone was crying, even the boys.  Getting that text was heart breaking.  Later I found out the teachers were crying too.  All because the school board decided to split these kids up.  I won’t get into it again, because I can no longer dwell on this horrible decision.  This summer I am working on an attitude adjustment – I am going to have a positive outlook on my daughter’s new school – and so will she.  We agreed to it.

So as I sat there in that meeting, thinking about my daughter – it hit me, I was not the only one with a life outside that room.  Life is hard – and most of the time, you really have no idea how hard it is – particularly for everyone else.  Fortunately for me, I can always turn to food – and that’s exactly what I did this weekend.  I didn’t just dabble – I was hard core – I was on a power cooking/baking frenzy, trying to get all my stress out in the kitchen.  I actually think it worked…or I am just utterly exhausted.

This was just one of the many things going on in my kitchen – a good old fashioned blueberry coffeecake.  Now, I have a favorite recipe from my mother – that just happens to be dairy-free.  I just had to see though if this dairy version from Cooking Light was better – and you know what, it wasn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, this was absolutely moist and delicious – but I actually like my mother’s recipe better – ok, who is really surprised by that?  Yes, my mother tests her recipes more than anyone else I know.  And Mom, you win again.

So I hope that I was not the only one that was able to take a break this weekend – in whatever form that is.  Even if you just took a few deep breaths…I know it will help.  Monday, I am ready for you – bring it on.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk. Remove 2 tablespoons flour mixture; sprinkle over blueberries, tossing to coat.

Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter; toss to combine.

Place granulated sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and oil in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (about 2 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in rind and juice.

Spoon half of batter into a 9-inch square light-colored metal baking pan coated with cooking spray (do not use a dark or nonstick pan). Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup blueberry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over blueberries. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup blueberry mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Coffeecake with Streusel

Meyer Lemon and Mango Sorbet

Meyer Lemon and Mango Sorbet

Sometimes you just need a little mango in your life.  It is spring, and the markets are starting to carry all the different produce that just make you want to have a picnic, or open your windows and let that spring air come through.  Of course in Seattle we get a few days here and there, but for the most part it stays cold and rainy until July.  So, we have to do other things to make us think that the sun is shining brightly outdoors.

My daughters love dessert – but what they love even more is getting dessert at a fancy restaurant.  They don’t get to go to fancy restaurants all that often, in fact, hardly ever.  I think because of that, it is even more special.  It just so happens that recently my younger daughter had the privilege of eating somewhere very unique – and for dessert she ordered mango sorbet.  Well, that in and of itself would have been exciting enough, but they brought the sorbet with a beautiful assortment of fresh fruit, and a delicious madeleine.  I swear she has never looked more excited.  She was almost squealing with delight at the thought of digging into this.  She enjoyed it immensely, and it was so much fun to watch.

The other week I was at the market and they had the most beautiful meyer lemons you have ever seen.  They were almost orange in color, and just as soft as can be.  I immediately grabbed them and then slowly walked around the produce section deciding what to do with them.  It was when I saw the pile of mangos that it hit me.  A meyer lemon and mango sorbet – yes!  It was so easy to make up this recipe, I basically just threw the ingredients in a blender then off to the ice cream maker.  It was delicious – entirely spring tasting, and just such a treat.  There is nothing like being able to whip up a batch of sunshine whenever you need to…

Ingredients

  • 2 mangos (about 2 cups of cut up mango)
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice

Preparation

To make the simple syrup, put 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan.  Heat until all the sugar has dissolved.  Cool completely.  Add mangos, simple syrup and lemon juice in a blender and puree until smooth.  Put in the refrigerator until nicely chilled.  Add the mango mixture to an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Freeze for about 4 hours before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Meyer Lemon and Mango Sorbet

Pear and Apple Crisp

Pear and Apple Crisp

January is a very dark month – and I finally figured out why.  In December, even though it starts getting dark at 3:30pm, there are tons of lights everywhere – to celebrate the holidays.  All of a sudden in January, the lights start disappearing, although it is still getting dark very early.  Top that with the fact that most of the time it is raining – sometimes I look out my window at 3:00pm, and it already looks like it is time to be heading home. Fortunately for me – I absolutely love it.  I love that it gets dark so early – for some reason I get a lot of energy when it gets dark early – I feel even more productive because it looks like you should be going to sleep, but I am still getting stuff done.  I know – I am a glass half empty girl most of the time – except in the winter.

Winter is also the time when I want to be home baking.  I love filling the house up with all those wonderful scents – but I am still a little fixated on fall – and can’t seem to move past it.  It also doesn’t help that there are still tons of beautiful looking pears at the market – and apples galore, living in Washington State.  So – I told you about one of my New Year’s resolutions about getting more sleep – but I neglected to talk about the other one I have…more dairy-free baking.

My husband has been dairy-free for quite a while now, and it seems to be working well for him.  Of course there are certain things that require that buttery taste – and substitutions will just not work – but I am on a quest to make delicious dairy-free baked goods for him this year.  Needless to say, he is very excited about 2014.

I knew that this recipe would be a winner, since I had already experimented with the Apple Crisp – but I must say – the addition of pears made this even better.  Now that I think about it – I should have added some cranberries in as well – so maybe you can try that out.  Even without dairy, the possibilities are truly endless on how to spend your time in these dark winter months.  Now get to work!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds Pears, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled Earth Balance sticks, cut into  pieces (or butter, if you can eat dairy)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Add apples, pears and lemon juice, and toss to coat. Transfer apple mixture to prepared dish.

Combine flour, 1 cup  sugar and Earth Balance in a medium bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, blend  ingredients until coarse meal forms. Spread flour mixture evenly over pears and apple mixture.

Bake crisp 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake crisp until apples are tender and topping  is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pear and Apple Crisp

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Crisp

Dairy-Free Apple Crisp

How can it be the end of October already?  Fall is my absolute favorite baking season, and I feel like I have hardly scratched the service.  I cannot wait to get to the farmer’s market this weekend, and catch up on some much needed kitchen time.  I love travelling to new places, but boy it is good to get home.  I am in between cities right now, and I swear I could write an entire blog post about the food I have experienced this week – but it is apple time…

My husband has really been trying to stay away from dairy, and I have been encouraging it.  It is pretty easy to cook without dairy – and if I am making something with cheese, I just put cheese on part of it.  Therefore everyone is happy.  Baking is a different story though, and I am slowly learning what I can use to substitute with.  Milk and buttermilk is pretty easy – I can almost always use coconut milk, and the final product actually tastes even better – butter is a different story though.

My neighbors brought us a bunch of apples from their trees on the peninsula – and they were calling me to bake something with. I instantly thought of a crisp – and I had to make it dairy free.  I found this simple recipe on Bon Appetit online but was on a quest.  I found these earth balance sticks – and decided to give it a try.  They are not a great substitute for butter when making a cake – oil is much better for that, but I thought for a crisp they might just do the trick.  I was right – this crisp was amazing.  I shared it with my neighbors, and everyone agreed.  You would never have known that this was made without butter.  The topping was extremely simple – and gave it a nice sweet crisp bite – if you want, you could definitely add some oats for additional texture but I didn’t think it needed it.

OK – 8 days left in October and I am going to make the most of it…stay tuned!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored,  sliced
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled Earth Balance sticks, cut into  pieces (or butter, if you can eat dairy)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Add apples and lemon juice, and toss to coat. Transfer apple mixture to prepared dish.

Combine flour, 1 cup  sugar and Earth Balance in a medium bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, blend  ingredients until coarse meal forms. Spread flour mixture evenly over apples.

Bake crisp 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake crisp until apples are tender and topping  is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Dairy-Free Apple Crisp

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie 2

My younger daughter is a super-smeller, like me.  We have a ridiculous sense of smell.  Now I am not sure I am a super-taster, but I swear she is probably the closest thing to a super-taster that I know.  This comes in handy when things spoil – particularly milk.  My older daughter is pretty good too, but not as good as her little sister.  Years ago we were visiting some friends – both of my kids love milk – but for some reason they just weren’t drinking their milk.  After the second day, I asked what was going on – and they quietly told me that the milk tasted funny.  They thought it was because we were not at home, and maybe our friends bought a different type of milk.  I tasted it – and there it was – the milk had gone sour.  Oops.

Yesterday was a nice day – it was a holiday, and I was fasting – but what do I do when I fast?  I bake.  My excuse was that we were having some friends come over for dessert after break-the-fast.  Truthfully, I have a much easier time fasting when I am in the kitchen.  Don’t ask me why – and since I do consider my kitchen to be my place of worship – I thought it was only fitting.  I had a great day reflecting, as I slowly made this Banana Cream Pie – a recipe that I found in Bon Appetit.  The only problem with baking while fasting, is I am not able to try things along the way.  At one point I asked my older daughter (who is not old enough yet to fast) to try the filling – just to make sure we were on the right track – and boy did she love it.

It was right before dinner when I decided to make the whipped cream topping for the pie.  I whipped up the cream, and spread it on the pie.  It looked amazing.  It looked so good that I decided to take pictures before the sun came down.  I got a few good shots and then stuck it back in the refrigerator to keep cool.  At this point I was knee-deep into preparing dinner, and I just left the bowl on the counter with a few streaks of whipped cream waiting for someone to take a lick.  I finished making dinner when my husband declared fasting was over. I went right over to that bowl with the whipped cream and scooped up a little of the leftover cream – wow, that was not good.  I tried it again, boy that tasted horrible – I ran over the refrigerator and grabbed the leftover cream in the carton and took a whiff…oh my goodness, the cream I had purchased that day (with an expiration date of October 20th) was completely rancid.  I couldn’t believe it.

I sat there for a second not knowing what to do.  I certainly couldn’t let this pie go to waste – but we couldn’t eat the cream either.  So, after dinner – my husband ran out to the store to get me another carton of cream (I instructed him to open it in the store to make sure it was good), and I scraped the cream off the top of the pie into the sink.  Banana Cream Pie – take 2.  Fortunately the next batch of whipped cream was delicious – and I spread it on top of the pie.  Amazingly it was all completed before our friends arrived.  The pie was delicious – particularly with that sweet cream on top.  The filling though was perfect – nice and creamy with chunks of banana.  Oh, and everyone loved the thin layer of chocolate between the crust and the filling.

There are lots of things I plan on doing differently this year, as always – but there was one thing I added later in the day.  From now on, I am always going to smell what is in that carton before doing anything more with it – whether it is fresh off the shelf or has been sitting in the refrigerator for weeks.  I definitely learned my lesson there.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Prebaked 9″ pie crust
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 sliced bananas
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoons vanilla  extract

Preparation

Melt 2 ounces bittersweet  chocolate with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and brush over a prebaked 9″ pie crust;  chill until set. Meanwhile, whisk 3 large egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 3  tablespoons cornstarch, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan, off heat,  until smooth. Gradually whisk in 2 cups whole milk. Whisking constantly, bring  to a full boil over medium heat and boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove  from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 teaspoons vanilla  extract. Fold in 3 sliced bananas and let cool slightly. Pour filling into  prepared pie crust, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 3  hours and up to 1 day. Beat 1 cup chilled heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar  and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract until firm peaks form; spoon over pie and  swirl decoratively.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Banana Cream Pie

Peach-Drop Biscuit Cobbler

Peach-Drop Biscuit Cobbler

I can’t believe that in only two weeks, I will be attending my very first food bloggers conference.  It is not just any conference, it is the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), and it just happens to be in Seattle this year.  I have a little confession to make…I think I might be allergic to conferences.  Actually, I am allergic to crowds of people where you are supposed to mingle and talk to one another.  I am an introvert – not with my friends, but with pretty much anyone I have never met before.  I have trained myself very well at work to smile and make conversation with new people, but it does not come naturally to me.  When it comes to parties, conferences, or any large gatherings of people whom I do not know – I would rather be at the dentist.

The strange thing is, I have no problem speaking in front of large crowds of people – in fact, it almost gives me a rush – and I would rather speak in front of people I didn’t know to people I know in a heart-beat.  I teach a few classes a year, and I love it – it is almost like I am on stage acting, and for some reason I can play the part very well.  If only I could somehow figure out how to do that when I am just speaking to a few people – or if I could just get past the “Hi, I am….”

I have been to a couple of food blogger events in Seattle, and I always have to talk myself into actually entering the room.  The last one I went to, I talked to one person, then made a beeline out the door.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and it was really a shame.  The food looked incredible, but I was too anxious to enjoy myself.  I am already nervous about this Food Blogger conference, but I keep looking at the website, and at the agenda, and it looks just amazing, so I am not backing out.  Not this time.

Not to change the subject, but it always makes me feel better to focus on food….

I couldn’t let peach season come to an end without at least one type of peach cobbler.  Something happened to me a few years ago, and I can no longer eat peaches unless they are cooked.  My entire mouth swells up – particularly my lips.  At first I thought it had something to do with the fact that the peaches were not organic, but next time I bought organic ones, and the same thing happened.  Peaches used to be my favorite fruit, and I really miss eating them – but fortunately I can cook them and I don’t get any of those strange side effects. This cobbler was terrific, of course the topping was just as good as those sweet and juicy peaches.  It was not a sweet topping, and it really didn’t need to be.  The recipe in Bon Appetit that I adapted for this recipe was really meant for blueberries, but I think peaches were just perfect.

So – I was able to figure out a way to overcome my peach allergy – I am hopeful that maybe I can get over my allergy of conferences as well.  I just have to keep my eye on the prize, and if you are reading this – and happen to be going to this conference – please look for me.  I always do much better when someone comes up to me – particularly if food is involved.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2′ pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, incorporate until only pea-size lumps remain. Gently mix in crème fraîche. Knead in bowl until a biscuit-like dough forms, 5–7 turns (overmixing will make dough tough).

Combine remaining 3/4 cups sugar, remaining 3 Tbsp. flour, peaches, juice, and zest in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Pour into an 8x8x2′ glass baking dish or divide among six 6-oz. ramekins. Tear biscuit topping into quarter-size crumbles; scatter over berries.

Bake cobbler until juices are thick and bubbling and topping is cooked through and deep golden brown, 20–25 minutes for ramekins or 45–50 minutes for baking dish. Let cool for at least 1 hour.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Peach-Drop Biscuit Cobbler

Peach-Drop Biscuit Cobbler 2

Cherry-Grapefruit Basil Sorbet

Cherry-Grapefruit Basil Sorbet

Cherry season is in full swing here in Seattle, the farmer’s markets are packet with all different varieties.  We even have cherry trees in our back yard, although it is always a race to get them before the crows do.  Unfortunately they don’t mind eating them when they are not so ripe – and we are always waiting until they are perfect to pick.  Every year we lose – don’t you think that after a while we would learn?  This year I decided to support the local farmers instead.

Where do I start with cherries – there is just so much to talk about.  When I was younger, cherry was my absolutely favorite flavor for just about everything – we are talking about that fake cherry flavor.  I hated real cherries – in fact, I am not sure I even had a real cherry until I was well into my 30s.  The cherries they use in Shirley Temples do not count – and I hated those – because they were close to real cherries.  I still am not a huge real cherry fan, but love the flavor – and the color.  The other weekend I ordered a drink that came with a real cherry on the bottom – no, I didn’t order a Shirley Temple at a restaurant, as much as I love them.  This was called the Corpse Revival #2, and was actually pretty decent.  I almost ate the cherry, but them remembered that there was probably a pit – which scared me off.  My husband popped it in his mouth – and would you believe there was no pit?  I have no idea how they managed to take the pit out without any type of hole – could there be such a thing as a pitless cherry that is fresh from a tree?  Of course not.

So in walks the cherry pitter.  The invention that can really change lives.  The other week at Book Club, one of the moms brought a bowl of pitted cherries – all the other moms were in awe.  They couldn’t believe there was such thing as a cherry pitter that was so easy to use and actually worked.  One of them said it was life changing.  So – even though I would never think about eating a real cherry, do you believe that I actually got one of these as a wedding present?  Yes, it is amazing – and pits cherries in a matter of seconds without hurting your hand one bit.  My younger daughter can pop them in her mouth though as fast as I can pit them.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and with all the hot weather we are having, I knew I had to give it a try.  Plus, it gave me an excuse to use that life changing tool.  I found some beautiful cherries at the farmer’s market, and secretly pitted a bunch without my daughter seeing me.  She thanked me later – because this sorbet was the bees knees.  I am telling you – there is nothing better than a bowl of icy cold sorbet that is naturally flavored with wonderful cherries and grapefruit – and did I mention that undertone of basil?  Wow.

Cherry lover or not – do not waste your time on anything else this weekend.  Oh, and did I mention that when I looked up the recipe online it only got 1 star (exactly why I never look at ratings before I make anything) – that person is obviously on a different planet – one in which all fruit is fake.  These cherries were real and they were spectacular.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 3 cups pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup fresh ruby-red grapefruit juice (about 1 grapefruit)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Preparation

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in basil; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes.

Place cherries in a food processor; process until smooth. Add sugar mixture, grapefruit juice, and lime juice; process until well blended. Strain cherry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Pour cherry mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cherry-Grapefruit Basil Sorbet

Cherry-Grapefruit Basil Sorbet 2

Little Apricot Cakes

Apricot Cakes

Another beautiful weekend in Seattle – boy have we been spoiled this summer.  And you should just see the markets.  I seriously haven’t seen such amazing looking produce at the farmer’s markets in years.  I walk around in awe at just about everything.  This Saturday was no exception.  The market was more crowded than usual – because word is getting out about how beautiful everything is – I just know it.  There was so much to buy, my daughter finally had to tell me to stop, and walk around the entire market before I put anything else in my bag.  I have taught her well.

I remember leaving work on Friday and telling my coworkers that I was not going to work this weekend.  One of them even had the audacity to suggest that I turn off my email on my phone – like that would ever happen.  I told her that the anxiety I would get when I started syncing my mail again would be enough to throw me over the edge – and that I would do better just monitoring things, but reminding myself that it was time for a break.  Then they asked me if  I was going to cook this weekend – as I emphatically said “YES!”  I explained that I had absolutely no idea what I would be making – and that it would all depend on what I found at the farmer’s market in the morning.  Well, I found the mother-load.  I had big plans based on what I brought back to the house – and I am pleased to report that I made everything that I wanted (ok, not exactly – I made everything I thought I could make, but believe me, that was not everything I wanted – that would take me another couple of weeks)…and everything turned out exceptionally well.  What did I make?  Well, I started with a couple jars of these, I made a big batch of this, and some new stuff that I can’t wait to show you.  Everything was made from locally sourced produce, which makes me even happier.

One of my favorites stands at the University District farmer’s market is this woman who sells her amazingly perfect apricots.  They are just stunning.  I get them in my hands, and I don’t want to put them down.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I immediately thought of this nice woman.  Her apricot’s would make these little cakes glow.  These little babies were delicious – just the perfect size, and just the right amount of golden apricot flavor.  They were super easy to make – and with or without whipped cream, they were a wonderful summertime treat.  I can hardly wait to see what the market will bring next week – all I know is that I am starting the week refreshed and ready to go, with my eye on the prize – next week’s market that is.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher  salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 apricots, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat muffin cups with nonstick spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another  medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy,  about 2 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions  alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops.  Top with apricot slices and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the  centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan  cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Cakes can be made 1 day ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Little Apricot Cakes

Strawberry Jam Biscuits

Strawberry Jam Biscuits

It’s jam time…that’s right, one of my very favorite times of the year.  The time of year when those empty shelves in my pantry start getting filled with all sorts of delicious cooked fruit.  My daughters love that I make jam, in fact my younger daughter refuses to eat any other jam except my homemade.  You could say I have spoiled them, or maybe just taught them what good food is.

I have already started stock piling for the holidays – but I always save some for the girls.  Usually I just put the leftovers in a ramekin, or in a jar that is not labeled, that I place on a special shelf in the pantry – “our jam section” – as opposed to the jam for gifts.  Last week I came over after a long day, and saw that there was a new jar of strawberry vanilla jam in the refrigerator.  I just about lost it.  Ok, so it wasn’t my proudest moment – but when I asked why they didn’t use the other two already opened jars of jam (one which I might add was the exact same variety, and another was the leftover jam I used for these delicious treats) – they told me that the jam with the pretty labels tastes even better.  Seriously???  I was so angry, but part of me was laughing inside (although that laughing started much later) – but I was fuming that they had just wasted one of my holiday jams.  I brought them into the pantry and showed them where I keep “our jam section” as opposed to the “holiday jam section”.  Of course the “holiday jam section” has about 30 jars already – where as ours only has about 5.  The girls didn’t understand why they didn’t get both.  Wow – that would be a lot of jam.  So – no Mom of the year award for me…

Back to this recipe…I found this in Bon Appetit, and I felt like it was time to actually bake with some jam.  These were so perfect for strawberry season – just the right amount of sweetness with the biscuit – the girls ate them every morning before swim team, and they were gone in no time.  Fortunately there is still some of that great leftover jam in the refrigerator…I just need to get a label for the jar, and it will disappear magically, so I am told.

Ingredients

Strawberry Jam

  • 12  ounces fresh strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large (about 3  cups)
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1  tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh  lime juice

Biscuits

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  baking  powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher  salt
  • 2 1/4 cups  all-purpose  flour plus more
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely  grated lime zest
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 tablespoon raw  sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream (for  serving)

Preparation

Strawberry Jam

Cook strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over  medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until jamlike in consistency, 12–15  minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime zest and juice. Pour into a shallow bowl  and let cool.

Biscuits

Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and 2  1/4 cups flour in a large bowl. Add butter and lime zest and blend with your  fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Add buttermilk and, using a fork, mix until  just combined. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead just until a  shaggy, moist dough forms, about 4 times.

Roll out dough about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch  biscuit cutter or inverted glass, cut out rounds. Gather scraps and repeat  rolling and cutting until all dough is used.  Place biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using your  thumb, make a large divot in the center of each biscuit; brush with egg and  sprinkle liberally with raw sugar. Spoon a scant 1 teaspoon strawberry jam into  each divot.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, 18–22 minutes. Serve warm  with vanilla ice cream, if using, and remaining jam.

DO AHEAD: Jam can be made 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Strawberry Jam Biscuits

Strawberry Jam Biscuits 2